Marc Pedersen: Playing the waiting game

Marc PedersenHaving attended last week’s I-gaming Forum in Stockholm, SBC’s Affiliate Correspondent Marc Pedersen explains why the industry is waiting for two Scandinavian governments to get their acts together.

The I-gaming Forum in Stockholm’s Grand Hotel provided a frustrating update on the development of two of the main Scandinavian markets insomuch as there has been no movement at all. It had been hoped that the regulatory outlook for both Sweden and Norway might have shifted enough to generate a fresh debate, but unfortunately the sluggish nature of the two governments has left the industry twiddling its thumbs for a little longer.

Sweden, it seems, is in total limbo until the election later this year. What’s annoying about that state of affairs is that most of the politicians seem to be broadly supportive of revisiting the gambling laws, especially after the frequent warnings from the European Commission about the monopoly.

But despite six of the eight parties in parliament being in favour of a new Gambling Act, we will at least have to wait until the autumn election before it is even discussed and have more delays as it goes through the legislative process. When it could feasibly be in place by the end of this year, the dithering around the proposed new laws is very frustrating.

Meanwhile Norway is still considering a regulated monopoly model, but it appears there has been no concrete development of this vague notion. While the Norwegian law has always mixed permissiveness with stringent social responsibility measures, the coalition government has been more open about letting competition operate online gaming.

Given the successful way in which the Danish market opened its borders and licensed foreign operators, it is a surprise that Sweden and Norway have not been inspired to take the same route. They have certainly been shown the way. State monopolies might not relish the competition but you only have to look at some of the countries where online gaming has been legalised in Europe recently to see that the former monopoly operators still hold great sway in those markets. Granted many of them have also been handed a leg up by beneficial legislation, but it is still legislation where competition has been introduced.

Ina market which has seen a lot of consolidation and will likely experience a lot more in the coming years, the subject of whether Unibet and Betsson, two of the region’s biggest operators, should merge was discussed quite candidly at the I-Gaming Forum. Neither seem keen at the moment and have suggested that they will continue to hoover up other smaller companies first.

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