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Commission enquires about Swedish poker

February 5, 2008 2008

On 31 January the European Commission sent an official request for information to Sweden. This investigation targets various issues relating to poker and tournaments.

In Sweden, poker games used to be exclusively offered in “offline” casinos, but in 2006 ,Svenska Spel the state gambling monopoly was granted a license for online poker.

At the same time other EU licensed operators were banned from offering online poker games and tournaments in the country. The national legislation sets restrictions and criminal sanctions for promoting and providing online poker even when providers a duly licensed in another Member State.

In addition, Svenska Spel uses very aggressive advertising methods and practices very low rakes compared to the rakes offered by average operators.

The official request for information from the European Commission, is the second infringement procedure opened against Sweden, since in April 2006 the Commission launched a similar procedure concerning the sports betting market. Further to this first infringement procedure the Swedish government had set up a committee to review Swedish gambling legislation.

In the same way as it did for the betting market, the commission will research if the restrictions placed by Sweden on online poker operators, are in conformity with article 49 of the EU Treaty, and whether the general interest objectives are consistent and systematic.

According to a consistent case law from the ECJ; Member States cannot invoke the need to restrict its citizens’ access to betting services if at the same time it incites and encourages them to participate in State lotteries or games of chance which benefit the States finances.

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