Online poker operators may be excluded from Finland, Sweden and Poland

Gambling in the three countries is provided by a state monopoly, affecting online poker operators.

The EU Commission has decided not to challenge new laws in the countries that may have negative consequences for online poker operators.

Europe.- Online poker operators are likely to be excluded from Finland, Sweden and Poland. Earlier this year, Finland and Sweden submitted gambling law amendments to the EU Commission. Both proposals have not yet been challenged by the Commission, despite the fact that gambling in each country is provided by a state monopoly. This may indicate that Poland’s new laws which also restrict online poker to the state monopoly, will also be approved.

As per the Finnish regulatory system, Raha-automaattiyhdistys (RAY) took responsibility for casinos and online poker, Veikkaus Oy provided local sports betting and the national lottery and Fintoto Oy provided pari-mutuel betting. Finland is now merging all three into a single state owned operator called Veikkaus, which will launch with a new consolidated brand on January 1, 2017.

On its part, Sweden submitted gambling law amendments that slightly change the operation of lotteries, such as ensuring that under-18s are not able to buy tickets, although they did not address the larger issues that have led the EU Commission to bring legal action against the country. Three legal cases claim that Sweden’s state gambling monopoly breaches article 56 of the Treaty for European Union (TFEU).

Currently, operators licensed in any EU country have been operating freely in Sweden. However, the state operator Svenska Spel has complained for several years that this has reduced its profits, and damaged customer protection. At this point,the courts have been unable to prevent foreign operators from offering services to Swedish players, or from advertising in Swedish media.

Both the Swedish constitution and the TFEU have been held responsible for the courts’ inability to enforce the gaming monopoly. Until now, the operators could claim that the monopoly was illegal under EU law, and continue to operate and advertise freely.

In the meantime, new laws in Poland have recently been sent to the EU Commission for approval. The addition of a regulatory framework for online poker looked to be a positive change, but the final text indicated that the only permitted provider would be the new state monopoly.