Key gambling issues discussed by Nordic Panel

Viktor Vangelov | Published 30 Sep 2019, 10:35 a.m.

The Nordic gambling scene has been pretty active lately. Multiple international companies are active in this geos, but there’s a number of local companies which also offer betting and gambling services to residents of Denmark, Sweden and Finland. A Nordic panel with representatives of several operators and organisations took place few days ago. Key topics discussed at the panel were the regulation of the Swedish market, i.e. its liberalisation and the situation in Finland regarding the state monopoly and how this policy is implemented.

Over 90% of active gambling operators in Sweden are licensed

Frederik Wastenson, who is the current CEO of one of the largest Swedish betting and gambling companies Svenska Spel said that the key idea behind the decision to open the Swedish market was to ensure that there is a sufficient degree of customer protection. Prior to the online gambling legalisation that happened this January, Swedish players did place wagers on foreign owned sites, but they weren’t protected by state authorities.

Sweden’s gambling authority announced that 91% of companies that operate in Sweden operate within the legal framework. Wastenson is still cautious and wouldn’t say just yet that decision to open the market was a good one, albeit everything indicates that this is the case.

Prior to the introduced legalisation, less than 50% of all players played at regulated sites and that wasn’t a good situation. It wasn’t good for the players, the potential operators, it wasn’t good for any stakeholder. The state can’t collect taxes and that effectively decreases revenue and players aren’t protected and can’t complain in the event when the operator breaches certain rules or regulations.

A slightly unusual monopoly in Finland

Unlike Sweden, in Finland there’s a monopoly, but how this monopolistic position is implemented in practice is completely different than the standard definition and understanding of this term. However, Finnish players are allowed to place wagers with other operators, the only thing that’s not permitted is for foreign companies to market themselves to Finnish players.

So, even though most players are registered with the state monopoly, there are many who place wagers with foreign-based providers. When it comes to online sports betting and casino gambling, it is about 50 of all players who place wagers with the state operator.

Wastenston stated that they don’t miss the period when they were a monopoly in Sweden, adding that a state monopoly could never offer the same odds on sports betting as offshore competitors and better odds can attract players more than marketing. He also said that there are two ways to go about – one is to implement a stricter monopoly and the other is to liberalise the market completely. Each solution has its advantages and disadvantages, but history has shown that hybrid solutions don’t work out for the best, neither for the players, nor for the market as a whole.

UK as an example

All participants in the debate agreed that they should work together, as an industry to ensure that the approach towards legalisation and other issues is appropriate. It is evident that the current public opinion is slightly negative towards the industry as a whole and operators should aim to improve this perception.

Towards the end of the panel discussion, Maarten Haijer who is Secretary General of the Betting and Gaming Association of Europe said that the case of UK should be seen as an example and other countries can learn a lot from it.

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