Swedish media in trouble over gambling advertisements

Last week, four of Sweden's print-based editors were reported to the police by the National Gaming Board for violating a law that prevents running advertisements for foreign gambling companies. Expressen and Metro newspapers and Slitz and Spray magazines had run ads for non-Swedish gambling companies in their publications in the weeks leading up to the World Cup.

The country's Lotteries Act of 1994 prohibits the promotion of unlawful gambling that originates outside of the country, making it is illegal for foreign gambling companies to solicit customers through advertisements in the Swedish media.

According to the law, that also makes it illegal for Swedish media outlets to accept such advertisements. However, it is legal for state-owned gambling companies to advertise.

The editors in this case are arguing that the law is inconsistent with EU law that says countries may prevent competition in the gambling space in order to maintain social safety but that they must otherwise uphold free and fair competition.

In April, the European Commission sent official inquiries into the restrictions on sports betting services to Denmark, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands and Sweden to determine whether they were in violation of EC laws that guarantee the free movement of services.

Sweden's gambling monopoly and advertising law have been challenged in the past. In 2004, the Britain-based company Ladbrokes created an Internet scratch card similar to one put out by a Swedish company. As soon as Ladbrokes placed an ad for their card, the Gaming Board reported it to the police.

More recently, Ladbrokes challenged the law by applying for a Swedish poker license. Ladbrokes said it has undertaken to abide by all social commitments that were required for the government owned Swedish company Svenska Spel's license and will consider legal action if the Swedish government rejects its application.

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