Sweden is a major Nordic country in the Scandinavian part of Europe. Scandinavia is traditionally made up of Sweden, Denmark and Norway, but most recently has been expanded to include Finland, Iceland, Greenland, Svalbard and the Faroe Islands.
Sweden had the second highest education system in the world in 2014/2015, as well as being ranked the sixth best country in the world to live in when considering overall Quality of Life, Cultural Influence and Entrepreneurship (this looks at infrastructure, access to skilled labour, education, technological expertise and more).
It has an annual Gross Domestic Product which ranges $517-$571 Billion, which is staggering considering its rather nominal population of less than 10 million.
Online Casino Gambling
It is permissible for Swedish Residents to gamble at online casinos which reside within territories outside of Sweden where online gambling is licenced and legal. This includes regions such as Malta and Gibraltar.
It is illegal for an online casino to run by a Swedish company and offer online casino games to Swedish residents, however should a Swedish resident choose to play at an international online casino the “Swedish Gambling Authority does not exercise any supervision over these operators” and as such you are welcome to play online at such casinos as Guts and LeoVegas casino.
Online Gambling Tax
Taxes on online casino gambling in Sweden is an interesting point, whether you pay tax or not depends on where the online casino’s licence is held.
In order to avoid paying tax on your winnings you need to play at an online casino with a European gaming licence, in particular one from the Malta Gaming Authority (MGA).
Playing at a non-MGA licenced casino could result in you paying taxes on all winnings (regardless of whether you actually lost more than you won).
The Lotteries Act
With all of its freedoms and social rights, Sweden’s local land-based gambling activities are tightly controlled by the government under the Swedish Gambling Authority (Lotteriinspektionen), and in particular the Lotteries Act.
The Lotteries Act is not as one would normally consider it to cover Nation and International lottery ticket but has an expanded scope which also covers “guessing, betting, bingo games, slot machines, roulette games as well as dice and card games”.
From this definition, it is clear that the Swedish Gambling Authority has given itself complete control over any form of casino gameplay which may occur both offline or online. It has further solidified its hold by stating that this definition is still valid and under the prevue of the Lotteries Act “whether a stake is paid or not”. Should they so wish the Swedish Gambling Authority could thereby enforce control over not only cash based games but also free play, fun play, demo play and even social casino games, such as those found on Facebook.com or offered with micro transactions on mobile devices.
The Casino Act
The Casino Act is a special consideration under the Lotteries Act which allows for the installation and operation of gambling machines in fixed venues such as restaurants, bars and hotels plus the “arrangement of games in connection with public amusements of a temporary nature”.
In short, the Casino Act addresses such issues as who may receive a casino game licence (all licences are granted to State owned operations), ensuring that under age children are not targeted to gamble and how winnings are paid.
Current Licence Holders
The only operators to hold a Swedish Gambling Authority endorsed gambling licence under the Lotteries Act are AB Svenska Spel and ATG (AB Trav och Galopp).
AB Svenska Spel is the Swedish National Lottery and is a parastatal, meaning it is owned in its entirety by the Swedish government.
ATG is the body which controls and run all betting on horse racing in Sweden. While it is unclear if ATG is also a parastatal it ash the monopoly on horse race betting and is clearly a state-controlled company which puts it in the same position as AB Svenska Spel in terms of government influence.
Sweden currently only has four official landed based casinos in operation, these are located in the nation’s capital Stockholm, as well Malmo, Gothenburg and Sundsvall. However, it is worth noting that Svenska Spel drives revenue for lotteries and games through nearly 10,000 small agents, bars, restaurants and other venues. The same is true of ATG where punters can pick up racing forms at any location sporting the ATG logo on their shopfront or building.
With regards the control of regulated operators under both the Lotteries Act and the Casino Act the Gambling Authority takes a firm stance on any transgression of the licencing agreement (such as promoting unlawful international lotteries through advertising, by selling tickets and paying out prizes associated to these lotteries) with the levying of either fines, jail terms or both. The current maximum jail term for a licenced operator found in contravention of their agreement is 2 years imprisonment.
The End of the Monopoly
The Swedish government announced that it would be investigating an open market policy with regards online casino gambling licences back in September 2015, this report was submitted to the government for perusal on March 31st, 2017.
The proposed bill could be in effect in Sweden as soon as January 2019 and comprise the following key elements:
- The licence would only be valid for online casino gaming
- A flat taxation rate of 18% of GGR
- Annual licence fee based on turnover and number of games offered ranging from SEK60,000-SEK700,000 ($7,000-$80,000)
- An annual supervision fee ranging from SEK30,000-SEK1 million ($3,500-$115,000)
While the introduction of such a drastic change in Sweden’s currently state-monopoly driven licencing would abolish AB Svenska Spels hold on gambling in Sweden it has been welcomed by both Svenska Spel and ATG – largely due to the aforementioned fact that while Sweden exercises tight control over regulated gambling it has not taken any legal or financial actions against either residents who gamble online nor the international operators who offer said unregulated online casino gambling.
According to the Gross Gaming Revenue (GGR) figures released by the Swedish Gambling Authority for 2016 it would appear that this unregulated (and currently untaxed) Swedish gambling equates to €532 million ($595 million). When compared to Sweden’s regulated gambling GGR of only €434 million ($485 million) it is clear to see why this new legislation touting an 18% tax is so appealing.
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