Svenska Spel Trumps Offshore Operators Among Swedish Online Gamblers

January 4th, 2015 | by Kaycee James
Swedish flag

Most Swedes stick with the homegrown product, but there are still big problems with the country’s online gambling model, according to the EU. (Image: Matti Matilla)

Svenska Spel is the site of preference for the vast majority of Swedish gamblers, according to a survey of the country’s online gambling habits published by Lotteriinspektionen, the Swedish regulator.

The study found that 59 percent played mainly with the country’s state-owned gambling site, shunning the offshore market, despite the fact that Svenska Spel markets itself without the use of any promotions or bonuses; part of a responsible gambling drive implemented in October 2013.

This contrasts with many “dot-country” jurisdictions around Europe where regulated operators struggle to compete with the offshore sites that are able to flood the market with better bonuses because they are free from the constraints of higher taxes.

The One-Percenters

The survey, which covers all forms of online gambling and not just poker, showed that just 1 percent of respondents played mainly at PokerStars, which does not currently offer casino gaming to the Swedish market, although those figures rose to 4 percent when applied to respondents between the ages of 18 and 29.

Meanwhile, Unibet, a Swedish company catering primarily to the Nordic market, but which remains unregulated by the Swedish government, was the preferred destination of 4 percent of respondents.

Online gambling in Sweden is technically legal, but in reality Svenska Spel, as the only licensed operator, constitutes a government monopoly.

Sweden has always claimed that by encouraging its citizens to gamble solely on Svenska Spel it is able to monitor and control problem gambling and protect the vulnerable, but while the results of the survey show that a surprising number of Swedes stick with the official homegrown site, 41 percent prefer to go elsewhere.

EU Sues

That’s a figure that contradicts Sweden’s justification for monopolization; something that has not escaped the attention of the European Union, which recently launched legal proceedings against the country for breaching EU law on the free movement of services.

A separate online gambling study released recently spelled bad news for the Swedish argument in this respect, stating that 33 percent of players who played at unregulated sites believed that the sites they were using were actually regulated by the Swedish government.

Furthermore, 80 percent of respondents said they would not know what to do if they were concerned about their gambling habits.

Sweden was asked by the EU to amend its gaming legislation in 2007, and then again in 2013.

While lawmakers in the country vowed to work towards establishing a new licensing regime in the wake of the EU lawsuit, little progress has been made, and the recent collapse of government in the normally stable state could further derail the process.

Last month Sweden’s newly-elected prime minister Stefan Löfven was forced to call a sudden March general election after his budget was opposed by a coalition of the populist, anti-immigration Sweden Democrats and the center-right opposition, effectively precipitating the collapse of the two-month old government.

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