Wednesday, July 27, 2005Contact: Maurits Bruggink
+33.1.56 09 93 40
Sweden to act against illegal online bookmakers

The Swedish Sports Minister Mr. Bosse Ringholm, responsible for gambling issues, announced action against betting operators that offer unauthorized betting to Swedish citizen. Ringholm quoted in the press to target companies like Unibet and Expekt, two Malta based betting operators that have also been part of an IFHA complaint with the European Commission against Malta.

Both betting operators are Swedish companies offering bets to Swedish residents (the sites are in Swedish language), without holding a betting license in Sweden. The government action would include high fines if these companies continue to offer unauthorized betting services, according to Ringholm.

Ringholm justifies the Swedish restrictive policy as a necessary instrument to control the unavoidable risk related to gambling, in particular young age and compulsive gambling.

Ringholm’s announcement came one month after the ruling by the Supreme Administrative Court against bookmaker Ladbrokes. In 2003, Ladbrokes applied for a betting license in Sweden on the grounds that EU law and jurisprudence would allow for a free flow of gambling services. However, the Supreme Court ruled against Ladbrokes in June this year.

Like Ladbrokes, various other betting operators interpret gambling rulings by the European Court of Justice in their advantage. However, none of these interpretations have been successful and Supreme Courts in Italy, Sweden and Holland have all confirmed that there is no internal market for gambling services in the EU and that the existing restrictive state gambling policies are compatible with EU law.

Moreover, 23 out of 25 EU Member States have called for the exclusion of gambling services out of a proposal for an EU law to liberalise the services sector.

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