Is Sweden’s iGaming Market Poised to Grow?

The online gambling market has been growing at an exponential rate across Europe. And the need for new regulations has increased with that. Pressured by the European Commission, a number of member states have introduced new iGaming regulatory frameworks over the past decade or so. In most cases, the new regimes have relaxed certain limitations and have opened the countries’ markets to international online gambling operators.

However, there are jurisdictions where the provision of all (or most) types of gambling services still falls under the purview of a state-run monopoly. It is a generally recognized fact that Sweden is among the European countries with the largest potential for a lucrative iGaming market. Yet, lawmakers have long favored the monopoly system and have dismissed calls for amendments in the local regulatory framework.

Developments from the past several years have indicated that the existing state of affairs may eventually undergo certain changes as the Swedish government has launched a probe into the country’s gambling industry. As explained, the purpose of the review is to determine whether the monopoly model is still the best for Swedish customers, the local gambling market, and the country’s economy as a whole.

According to previous media reports, the results from the probe may be posted early this year. However, the creation of an effective regulatory framework, one that complies with EU laws, among other things, is a time- and painstaking process. So it may take at least a year before the Swedish market is officially opened for international operations. And there is the possibility that lawmakers decide not open the market at all and retain the monopoly system instead.

Gambling in Sweden – What Is Legal and What Is Not?

In terms of legal status, it could be said that there are two main types of gambling services offered within Sweden’s borders – regulated and unregulated ones. Here it is important to note that unregulated services are not strictly prohibited under the country’s existing laws, but are not very welcome by regulators and authorities.

For years now, Svenska Spel has been providing regulated gambling options, both land-based and online ones, as the Swedish state-run monopoly. In other words, the Swedish government has been granting permits for casino games, different gaming machines, and several other services through its specially selected entity,

Lotteriinspektionen, or the Swedish Gambling Authority, is the regulatory body that is charged with issuing permits for the provision of gambling services as well as with ensuring that such services are made available to gambling customers in a safe and responsible manner.

A look at recent gambling statistics provided by Lotteriinspektionen show that Sweden’s regulated gambling market has grown in 2016 as compared to a year earlier. All regulated gambling operations generated the total amount of SEK8.2 billion ($924.5 million) in gross gambling revenue during the second quarter of 2016, reflecting a 4% increase from the previous year.

What is more, according to the figures posted by the regulator, unregulated operators saw collective gross gaming revenue of SEK2.3 billion ($260 million) during the three-month period ended June 30, 2016, up 12% year-on-year. However, it is important to note that the figure may be a bit larger as it is quite difficult to track how much exactly unregulated operators generate.

Sweden’s Potential to Turn Into the Next Big iGaming Market

The Swedish online gambling market has been growing, despite the challenging regulatory environment. However, more and more major operators have started avoiding gray markets, focusing on regulated jurisdictions instead. For now, Sweden seems to be an attractive destination for international gambling businesses but the lack of proper regulations may eventually result in certain degree of withdrawal from the market.

As already mentioned above, there are many clear indications that the Scandinavian country has the potential to become a lucrative iGaming destination, when and if it regulates its market. According to data provided by the World Bank, Sweden’s gross national income per capita amounted to $57,920 in 2015, placing the country among the ones with the highest income in Europe.

What is more, the Scandinavian country is among the ones with the highest Internet usage rates not only in Europe but also in the world. According to the World Bank, 94.8% of the country’s population had access to the Internet in 2013.

Sweden, and the Scandinavian Peninsula as a whole, is home to a number of big technology companies, so innovation is not a strange concept there. And it is good to note that innovation is one of the main concepts that shape the iGaming industry.

Within the context of the gambling industry, Sweden is the birthplace of some of the largest online gambling suppliers and operators, including NetEnt, Kindred Group (recently re-branded from Unibet), Cherry AB, and many more. In other words, the country already has heritage, knowledge, and experience in the provision of this type of services.

What Signals the Growth of Sweden’s iGaming Market?

Multiple international operators currently operate in the country’s gray market, providing local players with different types of products. And they have been spending heavily on TV advertising to attract a wider gambling audience. Recent reports by local media consultants showed that Kindred Group was the biggest spender when it came to TV advertising in the country. The gambling group spent more than $30 million last year to promote its products on Swedish television, more than any other operator.

Such a heavy investment indicates confidence – confidence in the company’s presence in the local market and confidence of the market’s potential.

It was in fact the Kindred Group that has recently launched an online casino for high roller players. It is too early to say whether the venture will prove to be a successful one. Yet, the mere fact that the company has seen the need to provide a product for a particular gambling group and the actual existence of such a gambling group may also be defined as an indication for the Swedish iGaming market’s strength.

As dwelt upon in a recent report by Casino News Daily, there has been an increasing appetite for Sweden-facing iGaming affiliates over the past several years. Companies like Catena Media and Gaming Innovation Group have been among those to purchase multiple affiliate websites with main focus on Swedish players and Sweden-facing brands.

Conclusion

Although it may be a bit difficult to determine at what pace and how much exactly the Swedish iGaming market is growing, there are certainly enough signals that show the market is indeed growing. If the local government completes its study in 2017, this will mean that the year may turn out to be formative for the local gambling industry.

The study may eventually put an end to the long-standing monopoly system but, on the other hand, it may affirm certain officials’ claims that said regime may be the most effective one for the country. Swedish lawmakers and gambling regulators have previously voiced concerns that if the market opens to multiple international operators, it may then be more difficult to monitor it and thus protect the most vulnerable members of the country’s population.

However, players are now exposed to iGaming offering in an environment that is almost impossible to monitor. In other words, a potential market (re-)regulation may provide an effective solution to the current self-contradictory situation.

 

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