Charlie McCreevy must be feeling proud – after the European Commission issued a reasoned opinion chastising Denmark for its gaming monopoly, it seems that the Scandinavian country is considering an opening of this sector to foreign companies. Danish Tax Minister Kristian Jensen is behind the bid to open the gaming market, proposing a licensing and taxing system that would grant the Danish government more control over gaming activities… and a slice of the profits.
It was by no means a quick decision to make – it has been 14 months since the EC slapped Denmark on the wrist with a reasoned opinion, which implied the threat of legal action if no improvements were made, and the Danish government is only starting to consider an opening now. But the gaming world is already rejoicing as another brick is removed from the walls that keep countries isolated from the global gaming market.
At the moment, Danish gaming monopoly Danske Spil enjoys an almost perfect exclusivity, with foreign companies being prosecuted for providing services and even advertising in the Danish market. These restricting measures are seen by the EC as “unnecessary and disproportionate,” and there was an implied threat of bringing Denmark in front of the European Court of Justice if this solution was not improved.
Tax Minister Jensen was not impressed or cowed by this threat, affirming on a radio interview that he believed Denmark would be able to win the case in the ECJ if it came to that. His proposed change of stance is not due to EC regulations, but more interestingly it was born out of the will of the Danish people – Danish citizens have continued to use illegal betting sites in spite of the law, and show no sign of desiring to restrict themselves to Danske Spil.
Minister Jensen is concerned that under the current state of affairs the government has no control over where the citizens gamble or over the money they spend on gaming, and proposes a system which would allow foreign companies to enter the market and compete alongside Danske Spil as long as they comply with governmental requirements. This will give the government not only more control, but also access to income from licensing and tax, which can be put to good use in Danish social causes and education.
A response from the gaming world was immediate and positive – Unibet CEO Petter Nylander quickly reacted issuing a press release in which he offers his and Unibet’s support to Minister Jensen and the Danish government: "We are looking forward to, together with the Danish government, create a modern, regulated and responsible Danish gambling market".