How Gambling is Regulated in Scandinavia


In countries across the world, the gambling industry is treated very differently. There are those nations who welcome the sector, recognising that it can be a major contributor in terms of overall revenue, while others choose to close their doors to the practise.

Against that landscape, many countries fall somewhere in between those two extremes and that’s certainly the case in Scandinavia. The focus is on the three recognised geographical nations, Sweden, Norway and Denmark, and it’s fascinating to see how each of them regulates the industry.

The Swedish Approach

Countries around the globe have had to assess the digital revolution and the potential for their residents to access any gambling website. There are many hundreds of operators available and new providers are coming online on a consistent basis so much of the legislation currently in place is very recent.

That’s the case in Sweden where regulations have kept pace with the transforming digital industry and, in the present day, all operators must abide by the Swedish Gambling Act which came into effect from the 1st of January 2019. Under the terms of this legislation, all companies looking to set up an online casino or to provide any form of gambling services to residents must be operating under a Swedish license.

All forms of sports betting, online casino play, lotteries and any practice where money is staked is regulated by the Swedish Gambling Authority. This is the body that issues those licenses after assessing a company’s credentials to see if they are suitable for providing gambling services.

In general, Sweden is a little more open in terms of gambling and some well known operators have their origins here. However, there are those strict regulations which require companies to apply for and obtain a license to trade here.

Norway’s Strict Outlook

Gambling laws in Norway are far stricter than in Sweden and, essentially, all platforms are run by the state. At present, only two companies are allowed to operate facilities to residents and they are Norsk Tipping and Norsk Rikstoto.

Established in 1948, Norsk Tipping is run by the Norwegian state and it was set up with a view to channelling profits into the country’s sports and cultural sectors. Norsk Rikstoto works in a similar fashion but the key differences between the two organisations relate to the types of gambling that is available.

Under the auspices of Norsk Rikstoto, customers can only bet on horse racing – both trotting and without the harnesses. With the Norsk Tipping organisation, the service is much wider and it covers sports betting, lotteries and keno.

Residents of Norway do, therefore, have a relatively wide choice in terms of the games that they play but that choice becomes far more limited with regards to available providers..

Gambling in Denmark

While Sweden is relatively liberal and Norway somewhat draconian in its approach, the country of Denmark falls somewhere in between. The relevant legislation here is the Gambling Act which was passed in 2012 and has been updated on occasions since that point.

For many years, Danske Spil was the only licensed company available to players but that position changed with the act of 2012. Now, residents can play online casino games and undertake sports betting with any company that has been approved by the Danish authorities and carries a license.

However, Danske Spil retains the monopoly on lotteries, horse racing, bingo; keno and other instant games and it is not possible for any other operator to obtain a license for these services

The Present and Future

As we’ve seen, it’s not possible to bracket Scandinavia as a whole when it comes to assessing the region’s attitude to the gambling industry. It is, however, possible to follow patterns and to identity similar approaches across the three main countries.

Technology is one area where Sweden, Norway and Denmark are likely to offer a similar approach. If it is not permitted to sign up and play with a specific operator due to residency, it should not be possible for the individual to access that particular website. Some form of error message will show and the viewer will essentially be blocked from that site.

Moving forward, it’s clear to see that Sweden is the most flexible of the three countries and we might expect them to continue to adapt to a changing gambling landscape. At the other end of the spectrum, Norway has remained defiant amidst calls for change and it’s unlikely that there will be any additions to the two available gambling operators in the foreseeable future.

In Denmark, the potential for change includes the possibility of expanding a list of operators for instant games but that also seems unlikely for now. Within the region, there are three very different approaches to the sector and it will be fascinating to see if there are any developments in the months and years ahead.

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