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Swedish hope for foreign gambling firms

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12:39 CET+01:00
An official inquiry into the gambling market in Sweden has concluded that under Swedish law there is no feasible way of stopping online poker, lotteries and other gambling which is run from abroad.

But the report, which was handed over to Sven-Erik Österberg, the Minister for Financial Market Issues, nevertheless proposed a ban on inviting participating in lotteries which are not arranged under Swedish law.

That means that foreign companies such as Ladbrokes will not be allowed to open betting shops in Sweden.

But the report proposed a model which would allow foreign companies to apply for licences to organise, for example, online gambling.

A licence system, such as that which exists in the United Kingdom, would give the Swedish state the ability to retain control of the gambling market, believes the head of the inquiry, Jan Francke.

Francke put forward a rough proposal for how such a model would operate, with Svenska Spel and other betting companies both in Sweden and abroad applying for licences to arrange gambling.

"I'm convinced that with today's legislation we'd have trouble with EU law, and we need a plan B for when the cruel winds start blowing from Brussels," said Francke.

"In which case we have to test something new. It can't be any worse than today, when 80% of the internet market is controlled by foreign companies."

It is currently illegal for online poker sites based abroad to advertise in Sweden - but they are still extremely popular with Swedes.

Sven-Erik Österberg did not immediately reject the idea of allowing foreign gambling companies to apply for licences.

"I don't want to put my foot down today. What we have to do now is research this proposal further," he said.

Douglas Roos, the managing director of Ladbrokes' Swedish operation, was jubilant at the news of the proposal.

"Unbelievably positive, because for a long time we've been working for a licencing solution," he said to TT.

"It's also gratifying that the inquiry acknowledged that the monopoly is contrary to EU law."

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TT/The Local

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