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Sweden’s Thorny Gambling Environment At A Glance

Gambling has had a long and interesting history in Sweden. For the past several years, all gambling activity was controlled by one operator. This monopoly was supported by the federal government which restricted the types of gambling options available to the general public. 

Recently, that has changed with legislation that has opened the Swedish gambling market to international gaming sites. Part of the reason for this was that non-regulated sites typically offered games not found on the Swedish-restricted sites. 

Gambling Regulations In Sweden

The gambling industry in Sweden has been anything but perfect. For decades the gambling industry in Sweden has come under fire by the European Union. The monopoly on gambling, strictly controlled by the Swedish government, is a violation of international trade agreements. Therefore, in the eyes of the EU, Sweden’s gambling restrictions are illegal.

Until 2019, the only operators authorized to provide gambling options to Swedish citizens were the state-owned Svenska Spel and state-controlled ATG. The only exception was lotteries and bingo but both of those gaming activities could only be organized if they were in support of public service purposes such as raising funds for a non-profit organization to utilize.

New technology in the form of the internet blew the gambling sector wide open. Swedish gamblers now had access to large digital casinos that are offshore. These offshore operators have no restrictions by Swedish law. However, that has since changed. New legislation requires offshore sites to obtain a license to operate in Sweden to be considered legal.

The Different Gaming Licences In Sweden

The two most important gambling licenses an online gaming site can receive are the commercial online gaming license and the companion betting license. Without both, an offshore online gambling site cannot legally operate in Sweden. Here is a closer look at the gambling licenses:

License for Betting

The Swedish Gambling Authority (SGA) issues this license. It is a requirement for all physical or virtual casinos in Sweden. It allows the license holder to accept bets. Without this license, a casino is considered illegal and subject to fines and other penalties. It is a requirement of all gaming sites and permits wagering on sporting events including horse racing, virtual sports races/events, and betting on lotteries. However, there are gambling activities illegal in Sweden even with a license for betting. They include events where most of the participants are under 18 years of age, and spread betting on financial markets.

License for Online Gambling

This special internet license permits Swedish gamblers to legally play blackjack, roulette, slots, poker, bingo, and other standard casino games online. This is also the gambling license that offshore gaming sites require to legally operate within Sweden. Although Swedish gamblers can access any online gaming site, it is illegal for them to participate in any gaming activity with an unlicenced site. There are also several limits on online gambling.

License for Gambling on Ships in International Waters

This specialty license applies to all forms of gambling found on foreign vessels. This would be primarily for cruise ships. It is a requirement for any maritime gambling taking place on the water within Swedish boundaries and includes in port or just cruising along shorelines.

License for Land-Based Gambling

This specific license is a requirement for gambling activities in a fixed location like a casino, hotel, restaurant, or other approved locations. There may be other permits required, depending on the site and this license does have limits attached. For example, there is a restriction on the number of slot machines and other gaming devices. The licence does not permit the right to conduct casino-style gaming which puts more restrictions in place.

License for State Monopoly

Although this may sound unusual, this license protects state-run casinos. Branded Casino Cosmopol, there are a total of four land-based casinos operated by the Swedish government. They are located in Gothenburg, Malmo, Stockholm, and Sundsvall. The license also restricts lotteries to just state-run varieties.

License for Good Cause Lotteries

The activity of raising money for a charitable cause with a lottery has to have one of these licenses. It also permits fundraising bingos and some pool-betting activities.

More on Swedish Gambling Licences

According to guidelines set out by the Swedish Gambling Authority, only Business-to-Consumer (B2C) operators require proper gaming licenses. There is also a different type of license for  Business-to-Business (B2B) operators. All of the different gambling licenses issued by the SGA are valid for five years unless otherwise stated.

How To Obtain A Gambling Licence in Sweden

For online gambling licenses, an application must be submitted. It can be by an individual or a corporation. If the individual making an application for an online gambling license does not reside in the EEA, a resident of Sweden, or permanent resident must represent to applicant. This is according to Chapter 4 of the Gambling Act (2019).

For a business license, the company making the application must provide several documents. They include a certificate of incorporation, articles of association, and a power of attorney for representation. 

Gambling Taxes

Gamblers who play at casino sites with proper licenses from the SGA do not pay taxes on their gambling winnings. However, the operators of the gaming sites are subject to a state tax. The amount is currently set at 18 percent and applies to the difference between wagers and payouts.

Final Thoughts

The interesting and unusual gambling landscape in Sweden is continuing to change. The first major step was the Gambling Act of 2019. With this legislation, the monopoly on gambling within the country did not change, but the types of gambling options did. 

The explosion of online gambling sites has caused many countries with strict gaming laws to address the internet and recognize offshore gambling is cutting into state-run monopolies. In Sweden, offshore sites now require proper licensing to legally operate. While this places some control in place, it hasn’t slowed down the Swedish gambling industry. If anything, it has opened it up to more online casinos which is a good thing if you are a gambler in Sweden.

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