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Online Gambling Problems in Scandinavia

By: Joan Peppin, Monday February 21st 2011
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Norway and Sweden are two Scandinavian countries with state owned online gambling monopolies. According to recent news items in the local press both countries are facing problems, though the nature of the problem is different in each case.

A survey carried out by Norsk Tipping, the state gambling monopoly of Norway, claims that 4% of Norwegians over the age of 18 gamble at the web sites of foreign operators. This is despite the fact that since July 2010 legislative moves are in place to block financial transactions with offshore gambling sites. The survey report has been forwarded to the Culture Minister Anniken Huitfeldt, who has gone on record stating that tougher measures will be brought in since the government is opposed to unregulated online gambling. The Norwegian newspaper Dagbladet has reported that these tougher measures include ISP filtering to block foreign internet gambling operators including both online casinos and poker rooms. The Minister said, "Such measures have been successfully used in Italy, Estonia and France, and the concept has found favor in Denmark."

This proposal has not found favor with the liberal section of the polity and the media. Liberal leader Ove Vanebo attacked the idea, saying that it was impossible for politicians to shut out citizens from foreign gambling sites. The liberal publication Liberalen opined in an article that introducing ISP filters amounted to Internet censorship. The editorial stated, "The proposal breaks completely with the liberal values that should be bipartisan consensus in Norway."

Sweden's state online and land gambling monopoly Svenska Spel has reported decline in net gaming revenues for the second consecutive year. The acting CEO explained this as a result of the measures taken by Svenska Spel to curtail problem gambling. He said, "Given the conditions in the market, with an ever increasing selection of games, and given that we are taking measures to limit gambling, this is a fully acceptable result. That we are also a company that does not have the maximization of profits as a goal increases our potential for introducing and handling responsible gambling measures, even when these have a negative effect on revenue." He has suggested to the board that the gambling monopoly should be allowed offer a broader range of online casino games if it was to remain competitive. This would mean newer games within the existing licenses and fresh licenses for new forms of online gambling that are in demand.

Some of the responsible gambling measures introduced last year included the acquisition of the responsible gaming subsidiary Playscan AB and the imposition of an 18 year age limit for buying lottery tickets. Responsible gambling awareness was also increased by holding responsible gaming weeks in all the casino locations. But clearly Sweden is struggling to achieve the right balance between increasing gambling revenues and imposing measures to prevent problem gambling.

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