These days it seems as if there is a constant battle in Europe regarding the world of gambling between sovereign nations and the European Union. Sweden, who generally stays out of the gambling world spotlight-compared with other more controversial states such as France and Germany – is involved in a dispute surrounding the legality of online gambling advertisements that appeared in the Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet.
Many have already speculated that because the laws regarding this issue are still unclear in both Stockholm and Brussels, businesses and individuals alike will continue to suffer due to this lack of clarity. The latest plea for transparency came last week from both the former and the current editor in chief of Aftonbladet, Anders Gerdin and Jan Helin. Both of these men, along with Aftonbladet the company, are currently facing multiple charges due to a breach of the country’s lottery law even though they argue that they have strictly adhered to EU law.
The legal action against the involved parties comes from their acceptance of advertising from a European based online gambling firm, just as it does form Svenska Spel, the state monopoly operator. Aftonbladet now faces a fine of up to €100 million if it continues to accept advertisements form foreign gambling companies. Ander Gerdin, the previous editor in chief, is facing the possibility of imprisonment.
In retaliation to the charges that have been pressed against them, they have written an open letter to the European Union Internal Markets Commissioner, Charlie McCreevy. In this letter they have called upon the Commission to begin infringement procedures against the Swedish government regarding their stance on gaming law.
“Swedish gaming law is far from being in line with EU standards and there is now a crucial need for strong and decisive measures from the Commission in order to change this situation,” the letter states.
Aftonbladet’s legal counsel, Stefan Widmark of law firm Mannheimer Swartling, was recently quoted as saying, “Aftonbladet’s belief is that it is in compliance with EU law and that the Swedish government is not. They see no reason to stop accepting ads from foreign online gaming operators before the applicability of Sweden’s lottery law is tested, either by the Supreme Court, or by the European Court of Justice.”
Mr. Widmark also said that Swedish courts have failed to keep up with legal rulings that the EU passed during the last few years and that the state has failed to seek an opinion from the EU regarding the compatibility of their lottery laws with their EU treaty obligations.
Sweden’s gaming board, Lotteriinspektionen, is behind two of the court cases brought against Aftonbladet. They have maintained their stance that the issues at hand are for the courts to decide.
“If there is to be a change in the gaming law, then the Ministry of Finance must do that. Our job is only to implement the law and that is what we are doing,” said Hakan Hallstedt, chief lawyer of Lotteriinspektionen.