Swedish Political Woes Could Threaten Regulation Process

December 14th, 2014 | by Brian Corlisse
Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven

Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven. The collapse of Löfven’s government could wreck efforts to reshape the country’s online gambling laws. (Image: HYPERLINK “http://www.aftonbladet.se/nyheter/article16315419.ab” aftonbladet.se).

Sweden’s proposed changes to its gambling laws could be derailed following the collapse of its center-left government after just two months in power.

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.

The Sweden Democrats,who want to cut immigration into the country by 90 percent, won a shocking 13 percent of the vote at the elections in September, placing them third overall. Löfven has warned that the party will oppose any legislation that does not reduce immigration, a stance that the other parties find unacceptable.

“I cannot let the Sweden Democrats dictate the terms. I think this is irresponsible and would be unprecedented in Swedish political history,” said Löfven, whose two-month tenure will go down as the second shortest administration in Swedish history.

Political Turmoil

It plunges the normally stable country into a period of political turmoil and throws the recently-elected government’s November pledge to “find a new [online gambling] licensing system for Sweden” into uncertainty.

Currently, the vast majority of Sweden’s online poker players play on unregulated, offshore sites.

Sweden recently became the first country to be sued by the European Union over its online gambling policy.

The country operates a “legalized monopoly” on online gambling, with just one licensed operator, Svenska Spel, a state-owned company, which offers no bonuses or promotions to its poker players as a matter of policy.

While online gambling is technically legal, the promotion of unlicensed gambling operators is a criminal offense and the state has actively pursued prosecutions of magazine and newspaper editors in the past.

Under EU law member states may impose restrictions on cross-border services as long as they can provide justification that their motives are to protect the vulnerable or to prevent crime.

Sweden has said in the past that by encouraging citizens to gamble on Svenska Spel it is able to monitor problem gamblers; however, the reality is it is driving huge numbers to offshore sites.

Anything Can Happen in Politics

The EU asked Sweden to clarify its position on online gambling on two occasions before referring the country to the European Court of Justice last month.

It is accused of undermining its own justification for a monopoly and of violating Article 56 of the European Treaty, which relates to the free movement of trade.

Responding to the legal proceedings, Löfven’s government immediately vowed to “speed up the work” of finding a new licensing system.

Speaking to Gaming Intelligence, Moderate Party MP Gustaf Hoffstedt, who was named last week as the secretary general of Swedish gambling lobby group Branschföreningen för Onlinespel, said that he believed that research into the matter by the Ministry of Finance was continuing.

As if the political turmoil wasn’t enough, Sweden was also hit with a massive DDOS attack within the last week, with hackers joining forces to shut down multiple servers on the Telia network and overwhelming major gaming company Electronic Art’s online services in the process.


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