Swedish gaming laws first addressed online betting in 2002 with legislation that authorized Svenska Spel to serve as the country’s monopoly provider of online gambling. That monopoly is in place to this day, but the law does not make it illegal for Swedes to visit foreign betting sites. As a result, large numbers of Swedes choose to take advantage of the larger game selection and promotions offered by offshore providers.
Top Swedish Betting Sites:
There are many Swedish betting sites in operation today even though Svenska Spel is the only licensed provider in the country. Current laws offer little in the way of enforcement, but that could change within the next couple years. At the end of 2017, the Swedish government announced plans to open the market to international competition.
In the initial announcement, the Swedish government stated it wanted to open online gambling, sports betting and other forms of gaming to licensing. International betting sites will be able to apply for licenses under this plans and serve the Swedish market, provided they follow certain rules such as:
- Restricted players under 18 from participating
- Ensure high levels of security
- Act quickly when signs of problem gambling are detected
- Not market their services to minors
- Not extend credit to players
This proposal is still in its early stages as of this writing, but the Swedish government appears likely to act on this. The government has proposed to begin accepting license applications in July of 2018 with the goal being to have the new regulatory system fully functional on 1 January 2019.
With Svenska Spel losing market share even as unregulated betting sites growing by 57% between 2012 and 2016, licensing and regulation is the best way forward. By enacting a new licensing system, Sweden can earn tax revenue it is currently missing out on, ensure customers are protected, do more to prevent problem gambling and address match fixing.
The proposal will end Svenska Spel’s monopoly over online gambling, but Svenska Spel will still have control over land-based casinos and slot machines. Likewise, the state will remain in control over lotteries.
A Brief History of Gambling in Sweden: All forms of gambling were outlawed in Sweden until the Lotteries Act was passed in 1994. This legalized a state run lottery and slot machines while criminalizing those who promoted unlicensed gambling. A few years later, Svenska Spel was founded to control all casino gambling and later merged with state lottery company Tipstjanst.
The Casinos Act passed in 1999 set the groundwork for several live casinos. The first state run casino opened in 2001 in Sundsvall. Currently, there are four brick-and-mortar casinos in Sweden. In addition to capital Stockholm’s Casino Cosmopol, there are properties in Malmo and Gothenburg.
Regulated Online Gambling Market? Sort of.
To its credit, Sweden was one of the first EU countries to recognize the potential of online gambling and pass legislation to address the emerging industry. In 2001, Svenska Spel was designated as the only authorized Swedish betting site. Other gambling websites transitioned into uncertain legal status but continue to accept Swedish customers to this day.
Svenska Spel has been enormously profitable for the Swedish government over the years, hence its reluctance to open the market to foreign competition. The European Commission has urged Sweden to open its market to competition, but the government has so far resisted those calls.
Sweden has rebuffed EU Commission demands on several occasions, but things seem to be coming to a head. Opening the market has been discussed in political circles and while it was once heavily in favor of keeping the status quo, the tide seems to be slowly turning. Growing numbers of lawmakers are coming on board with liberalizing the market.
Online betting may be heavily regulated in Sweden, but a number of today’s big names in online gambling maintain historic roots in the country. Unibet and Betsson are two highly successful international gaming sites that originate from Sweden. Even to this day, Unibet retains a 500-person customer service team that operates out of Stockholm.
In 2008, the government considered passing a law that would force ISPs to block all gambling sites besides the state run Svenska Spel. Nothing ever came of that legislation and the initiative died a quiet death. Swedes still have free access to the wider world of online betting.
It is curious why Sweden would not want to open their borders to other gambling operators. In 2009, Svenska Spel estimated the domestic market was worth over $4 billion SEK. A regulated, open Swedish online gambling market would bring windfalls of cash for government coffers.
Even Svenska Spel’s drop in profits would more than be made up for in taxes, permits and licensing fees to foreign operators who choose to operate in the country. The state run betting company would also rework the terms of Svenska Spel’s license so they can compete on equal footing in the future.
Besides, the justification for Svenska Spel’s monopoly status is largely based on promoting healthy gaming habits and protecting the industry from the criminal element. The current legal situation merely funnels players to betting sites that are completely unregulated by Swedish law.
In the end, there are only two ways forward. Sweden can accept the reality (that people are already gambling online wherever they want) and go the regulation route. Or, the country can enact stronger anti-gaming laws, censor the internet and do what it can to interrupt financial transactions to foreign gaming sites.
Recently, the Swedish government has made moves to liberalize the market and allow international operators to apply for licenses. If the government follows through with this plan, Sweden will have more tools at its disposal to deal with problem gambling and ensure the safety of consumers.
A host of Swedish gambling sites offer betting options to residents who have no fear of criminal liability. With no laws against visiting unlicensed sites, Swedes have plenty of options. Almost all the world’s biggest online poker rooms, bookmakers and casinos offer their services within the country. They support the Swedish language, accept krona deposits and operate under the laws of their home countries.
Is it legal to bet online in Sweden?
The law doesn’t have much to say on the matter from an individual’s point of view. Only one betting site is legally permitted to operate in Sweden, but the law does not address whether or not it is legal for individuals to place real money bets with offshore providers. In other words, it is neither illegal nor expressly legal to bet online. What I can tell you is that many Swedes bet online every day and I have yet to see a single instance in which anyone was bothered for placing bets over the internet.
Most Popular Sports: Swedes enjoy a variety of sports that are available to bet at just about every online sportsbook. Football is the most popular sport, and the First Division of Swedish Football matches are heavily bet. Ice hockey is also popular and has several divisions. The most popular league is Swedish Elite League and is considered to be one of the top hockey leagues in the world.
Depositing & Withdrawing for Swedes
Credit and debit cards work intermittently for betting online in Sweden. Issuing banks operate in an uncertain legal environment and some are reluctant to take on the risk associated with processing transactions to gaming sites. If you try to deposit with your card and the transaction is declined, it’s probably an issue with your bank. No problem – you just need to choose an alternative deposit method.
Other options include direct bank transfers, e-wallets and certain types of prepaid cards. Neteller and Skrill are two well-known options that allow you to store money online, transfer it to any betting site and receive payouts. You can fund your e-wallet with a credit card, debit card or transfer straight from the bank.
A few Swedish betting sites also accept mobile-oriented deposits such as Siru Mobile and PugglePay. Both of these allow you to associate deposits with your mobile number without directly involving your bank account or credit card information. Other deposit methods such as Trustly and Nordea provide direct online transfers from your bank account to your online gaming account.
Taxes On Winnings: Taxes on gambling winnings from European Union based companies are not required. In fact, only poker is subject to a 30% tax if the gambling takes place outside of the EU.
Sweden’s high court ruled that poker could be considerable taxable if the activity of the player is considerable a “game of skill.” This sent mixed messages to poker players. If a player was deemed a professional, his or her income could then be taxed as personal income which would increase the amount owed even further. In late 2012, the government cracked down on many professional players who won large amounts on non-EU economic area licensed sites such as PokerStars, Bodog Poker and Full Tilt.
Future of Online Gambling in Sweden
In early 2014, Sweden made strides to formally open and regulate their online gambling market to foreign operators. That effort languished for several years until developments in 2017 saw the government submit a draft proposal of new gaming laws seeking to develop a regulated market for online sports betting and gambling.
The legal situation in Sweden looks likely to change in the near future. The government is now in the early stages of opening the market to competition. We will be following these developments closely and update this page when new laws take effect.