A new Swedish Gambling Act (the Act) entered into force on 1 January 2019. It is a complete restructure of the legislative framework in Sweden regarding gaming and betting. Previously, only two monopolies, Svenska Spel and AB Trav & Galopp (ATG), and certain non-profit organizations could operate gambling services. Now, private gambling operators can apply for licensing to offer online commercial gambling and/or betting to Swedish consumers.
According to the law, the country had a monopoly system in operation until 2019. However, the market was considered “grey” for many decades with a plethora of international operators and brands providing services in the Swedish market online from abroad.
H2GC reports that SEK6.7 million ($720,000) of the total turnover of SEK 23.4 million ($2,500,000) generated in the Swedish gambling market in 2018 came from operators without a Swedish license.
International operators acted on the basis of licenses held in other jurisdictions such as Malta and Gibraltar and exercising their right to provide services cross-border within the EU, leading to the creation of the grey market.
Such operators were therefore relatively free to provide their services in Sweden, with the Gambling Authority instead targeting Swedish advertisers and marketing companies for aiding and abetting gambling operators without a Swedish license.
Taking the above into consideration, the legislative changes were long anticipated. Surprisingly, the new law was implemented quickly.
Following the presentation of a public investigation on re-regulation published in March 2017, subsequent public consultationand mandatory notification to the European Commission, the Gambling Act was voted through in parliament on 14 June 2018.
With the new law, cheating is considered a crime and a special council has sat up concerning match fixing.
The gambling market has been divided: a competitive part, which mainly involves online gaming and betting; a part that covers gambling that has a public benefit, which mainly includes lotteries and bingo; and one part reserved for the government, which mainly includes casinos and token machines.
Operators with a license pay 18% in tax on profits made on gambling in Sweden. Gambling for non-profit purposes are tax exempt. If a player wins money on a site owned by a non-licensed operator, the player will have to pay tax on the profit.
A new paragraph against match-fixing is introduced, the Gaming Authority is given the role of the cooperating authority against the manipulation of sports events regarding match-fixing. A match-fixing council has been formed which is coordinated by it.
The Council consists of several authorities but also representatives from the gaming industry and the sports movement. The gaming industry is represented by Sper and Bos.
On August 1, 2017, a new money laundering act came into force in Sweden. This means that the gambling industry is subject to the actions required by law by operators in order to prevent the business from being used for money laundering and terrorist financing.
The purpose of the Money Laundering Act can be divided into two parts, to prevent money laundering and to report if any deviation occurs in the business.
The tools mentioned in the legislation to achieve the purpose of the law are customer knowledge, ongoing monitoring of financial transactions, internal training and requirements for reporting suspicious transactions to Finansinspektionen.
In order to identify the internal risks, operators must carry out annual internal risk analyses that will serve as the basis for where the business will focus its resources according to the principle of a risk-based approach.
As of 11 March 2019, 116 licenses had been granted to gambling operators and of those, 44 include the right to provide betting to Swedish consumers. Among the license holders, many of the major global brands can be found, including Bet365, bwin, Expekt/Betclic and Unibet.
The short timeframe during which the Gambling Act and its secondary legislation were implemented, meant that not all aspects of the new framework could be sufficiently investigated, and the consequences of the new laws could not be analyzed in any great depth. Consequently, the Swedish government has amongst other initiatives, commenced an investigation to analyze the new conditions for sports organizations and horse organizations following the re-regulation.
Naturally, the granting of licenses to international operators has led to increased advertising activity from such operators as they seek to further establish themselves in the competitive re-regulated market. The Minister for Public Administration, Ardalan Shekarabi, held a meeting with operators to discuss the issue, during which he issued an ultimatum to the industry to reduce both the volume and aggressiveness of advertising through self-regulation or be faced with tighter legal restrictions.
Thus, two trade associations BOS and SPER delivered a joint manifesto and marketing guidelines to the Minster on 28 March 2019. Despite these efforts from the industry, the Minister was not impressed, and made clear that he intends to initiate measures to restrict the advertising of gambling.
For sports, the new market has meant both new commercial opportunities and challenges.
One of the biggest fears from sports organizations, especially at grassroot level, has been the risk of revenue loss since small-scale lotteries and bingo events which are popular fundraisers in Sweden could be negatively affected by the increased online competition.
On the other hand, an obvious opportunity is the increased potential for sports sponsorship. The Act made it possible for Swedish Elite Football to sign an agreement with Kindred Group (via the Unibet brand) to become the main sponsor of Allsvenskan and Superettan (the top two divisions in Swedish football). The agreement is a six-year long cooperation with start on 1 January 2020 and is initially worth SEK 900 million ($97 million). The agreement also has an option for another six years, which, if triggered, would provide a total contract value of SEK 1.8 billion ($194 million).
It is interesting to note is that certain athletes and organizations have, on principle, opted to not accept sponsoring or advertising money from the gambling industry, including skiing star Charlotte Kalla, state broadcaster Sveriges Television and the major football magazine Offside.
Aside from the overall impact on the sponsorship market of the new regulations, we may also see a shift within the market in terms of the size and types of deals being concluded.