EGBA slams Sweden for failure to comply with EU law

The European Gaming and Betting Association (EGBA) has not minced its words in contributing comments to the public consultation on a report initiated by the Swedish Ministry of Finance into the gambling market in Sweden (the Nyren report), which expired today.

The Association, which numbers most of Europe's major online gambling groups among its members, said it deplores Sweden's "continuous lack of commitment to comply with European Union law."

The consultation took place after the Nyren report was submitted to the Swedish government on 15 December 2008 (see previous InfoPowa report). The Nyren report intended to propose “long term sustainable gaming regulations”. It has, however, failed to provide a basis for future regulation in EGBA's view

This was clearly echoed by the Swedish Finance Minister when he admitted that “it was difficult to see a way forward here”. (News Agency TT, December 2008)

EGBA opines that such a state of affairs is extremely worrying given that Swedish gaming legislation is already in breach of EC law. The European Commission first objected to Sweden’s protectionist gaming legislation in October 2006 before sending a “reasoned opinion” in July 2007, followed by a “letter of formal notice” in relation to the restrictions of cross-border poker services in January 2008.

In its response to the consultation, EGBA clearly evidences that the Nyren report is fundamentally flawed as it assumes that the foundations of the current Swedish gaming regulations are in fact compliant with EC law. The report, which is the 8th since 1992, proposes to either retain the current monopolistic gambling regulations or pave the way for a restrictive licensing system which in any case would not meet basic requirements laid down by EC law and the jurisprudence of the European Court of Justice (ECJ).

Sigrid Ligné, EGBA Secretary General said: “Our detailed analysis shows that - even if considered by the Swedish government as a basis for future legislation - none of the Nyren recommendations would help to ensure a level playing field for all European operators and would meet the requirements of the EC Treaty.

"In times of economic hardship, the Commission and its senior officials, as guardians of the EC Treaty, must ensure more than ever that its foundations of free movement in goods and services are respected. We urge the Commission to bring Sweden to the European Court of Justice.”

EGBA concludes that nothing has changed since the Commission first challenged Sweden’s gambling legislation back in October 2006.

"The current situation shows all too clearly that there is no concrete commitment by the government to move towards a regulatory system that is compatible with EC law," the Association claims.

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