Beleaguered Swedish gaming monopoly Svenska Spel has backed up its recent threat of litigation with international gaming firm Ladbrokes by initiating legal actions over Ladbrokes’s current Swedish ad campaign yesterday.

For Svenska Spel, the lawsuit hinges on both the wordings of a famous slogan from the campaign (in Swedish it reads: Svenska Spel med Engelska Odds which in English reads, “Swedish Games with English Odds”) and the use of an icon which strongly resembles a famous mark of the Swedish company. For its part, Ladbrokes remains steadfast in its position, although it has removed the disputed icon from any and all advertisements.

Lasse Dilschmann, CEO of Ladbrokes Scandinavia on the Svenska Spel lawsuit:

This finally gives us the opportunity to put our cards on the table, beginning a dialogue between Ladbrokes and Svenska Spel and looking at the politics of gaming in Sweden in a Swedish court. This has never happened before, despite our attempts to engage in dialogue…

Svenska Spel's profits are maximized to provide revenues for the state, in effect applying a morals tax on a fully legitimate service – games. Demonstrating this fact is to the benefit of Swedish players and highlights the importance of a regulated and competitive gaming market where competitive pricing benefits consumers and thereby society.

Responding to Ladbrokes’s open assault on the very legitimacy of the Svenska Spel itself, Svenska Spel Information Director, Andreas Jansson offered contentious words of his own:

Ladbrokes methods are both doubtful and strange, and remind me of what you would expect from a basement company rather than the 120 year old serious gaming company which they profess to be.
We too welcome a debate regarding the regulation of gambling in Sweden, but we are convinced that this can happen without breaking the law and committing flagrant trademark violations. The fact that Ladbrokes have now changed this advertisement proves to us that they understand that they have committed a crime….Nowadays they instead infringe [on] other companies rights in an unobjective and distasteful way, attacking serious competitors as quickly as opportunity allows. This is both surprising and very sad.

This war of words comes as only the latest in a series of controversies surrounding the Swedish gaming monopoly. Beginning with the European Commission’s with European gambling laws and extending into the abrupt resignations of its the head of the bingo, casino and restaurants division, Annica Axelsson and the head of Internet, telephone and retail betting, Mathias Hedlund and the aforementioned legal squabbles, Svenska Spel has been at the center of major controversy for the entirety of the 2008 calendar year.

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