The Daily Mail has reported that the European Commission has initiated legal proceedings against Sweden as the country has not yet amended regulations related to online poker gaming and sports betting. The commission claims that these regulations violate European Union (EU) laws and policies related to free trade.
An EU executive referred the country to the highest court in Europe in two different lawsuits, each associated with its restrictive gambling regulations. The country issues gambling licenses only to businesses owned by the state government and operators located within its jurisdiction.
The European Commission said: “Sweden is referred to the court of justice for imposing restrictions on the organization and promotion of online betting services in a way which is inconsistent with EU laws. Changes to the Swedish gambling law in order to make it compliant with EU law have long been envisaged but never implemented.”
As a result, Sweden is now engaged with two lawsuits regarding the granting of online poker and online sports betting licenses. According to the European Commission, Sweden’s policy of granting gambling licenses only to state-owned gaming businesses and domestic gambling operators violates EU regulations on free trade.
According to EU laws, all its 28 member states are given the power to restrict cross-border supplies of certain forms of gambling in order to protect their residents from gambling addiction and problem gambling and to prevent fraud and criminal activities, but only if they can first show that such measures are essential or suitable.
The commission claims that the Swedish system of issuing online sports betting licenses is not systematic and that Swedish regulators did not monitor effectively the business activities of service providers.
Responding to the commission’s statement, the government of Sweden said that it only intended to “speed up the work that has been carried out for a long time in order to find a licensing system that could be introduced in Sweden.”
Speaking about Sweden’s online poker regulations, the commission alleged that Swedish regulators have accepted the unauthorized marketing and offer of online poker services.
The European Gaming and Betting Association is delighted about these developments. They say that the commission’s move is “a breakthrough decision” as it is the first time the commission is suing a member state over its restrictive gambling laws.
In 2007, the commission urged Sweden to amend its gambling regulations, and in Nov 2013, it once again warned Sweden of the same.