Scandinavia Calling – One of the Key Grey Markets In Europe


The Scandinavian region has a long-standing history with online gaming.  The region has given rise to incredibly successful titles such as Minecraft, Clash of Clans, Battlefield, Angry Birds. And through the years, the Scandinavian countries have proven over and over that they create a trend-setting game design, and have a big community of talented developers embracing new technologies. So it’s no wonder they are the ones that move things forward in MMO games, VR and AR gaming and technology.


Until recently, only Denmark allowed private operators to enter the market. But due to the EU requirements, Scandinavian countries are slowly giving a green light to the gambling industry, which is using the opportunity to gain momentum. At the moment, the region is under pressure to create and adopt a legislative framework. However, not all countries are on the same page when it comes to online casino operators.


Online Gaming Legislation in Scandinavia

The Scandinavian market has tried hard to keep a regime of monopoly in gambling. And that’s the reason why legislation has been so strict in these countries. As a result, Scandinavian providers have very limited opportunities. The first exception was Denmark when the country approved serious amendments to their gaming and gambling laws in 2012.


Due to the pressure coming from the EU, Sweden has also made changes to their laws and  opened the market in January of this year. Finland is slowly beginning to interact with online casino operators, and Norway is the only country that does not intend to end the state monopoly. But considering that Norway is not an EU member, they do not have to comply with the legislation of the Alliance.


The Overall Condition of the Scandinavian Gambling Market

There is a huge interest among industry leaders to enter the Scandinavian market. This is because quality of living is very high in these countries. Which for gaming operators translates as having a lot of people that play at high stakes. According to statistics from H2 Gambling Capital for 2016, the average spending on gambling per month of players from this region:

  • $390 per year in Norway;
  • $320 in Sweden;
  • $300 in Denmark;
  • $485 in Finland.

Scandinavians are avid online players. They prefer horse race betting, especially in Norway, in Denmark they mostly play poker, while in Finland and Sweden online gambling is rising in popularity with poker and sports betting. This is very important for operators because online games are now legal in Sweden, and are expected to become legal in Finland too.


The Gambling Industry in Denmark

Back in 2010, the Danish government had to regulate gambling and cooperate with the online casino providers and operators. The state monopoly was ended, and the new law came in force on 1 January 2012. But the gambling market has been divided in two parts. One regulated, one still monopolized. The latest updates were introduced in late 2015 though, with the amendments that legalized betting on fantasy sports, along with some changes to the licensing procedure which is now managed by the national gambling regulator Spillemyndigheden.


The Gambling Industry in Finland

Even though Finland is not in the EU, it belongs to the Scandinavian region, and is of great interest to the gambling community. The Finish market is still state-owned and controlled, and consists of three sectors:

Casinos and slot machines are operated by RAY company.
Veikkaus Oy operates State lotteries with cash prizes, scratch cards, sports betting, as well as pool games.
Horserace betting – by Fintoto Oy.

But with the reform in 2017 were united under one name: Veikkaus. In Finland there are also games run by charitable organizations – non-cash lotteries, bingo, and keno. Interestingly enough, surveys show that two thirds of Finish citizens support the government policy regarding the state monopolization of gambling. And over half respondents do not want foreign gambling companies to be allowed to enter the country. Finland considers introducing new identification requirements for the operation of slot machines, but these changes should come into force in 2023.


The Gambling Industry in Sweden

Until recently, Sweden had a state-owned monopoly using the local operator Svanska Spel. Starting from 1st January 2019, the Swedish online gambling market become open for licensing international operators.  The process of de-monopolization of the national gambling market begun years ago, and foreign operators and land-based casinos had an opportunity to work in the country.


Yet, the share of Svanska Spel is still much bigger than the share of international gaming companies. Online casinos that operate outside of Sweden were never prohibited though. According to EU legislation, Swedish citizens are free to play these sites. As a result, many European operators have used the chance to focus their efforts on attracting players from Sweden.


The Gambling Industry in Norway

The Norwegian gambling market is still partially owned by two major state-owned gaming companies:

Norsk Tipping AS offers lotto, keno, lotteries Eurojackpot and Viking Lotto, scratch cards, number games, sports betting, betting terminals (IVT) and online gambling.
Norsk Rikstoto offers horserace betting.


Additionally, there are games organized by private operators sponsored by non-profit organizations. This part of the market consists of bingo, casino on vessels, card games, poker, as well as small local and regional lotteries. These private operators account for less than 20% of the market.


But the Norwegian market is not about to open up to international operators any time soon. In 2016, the Royal Norwegian Ministry of Culture supervising the gambling market introduced a new law. This new law favors the strengthening the state monopoly and banning access of foreign operators of online gambling. The government justification for the rejection to open the market is that implementing another regulatory framework may lead to the development of gambling addiction.


Future of Scandinavian Gambling

While having a state monopoly on the gambling market is the usual practice in Scandinavian countries, online gambling sites are becoming increasingly popular. Since no one country can monopolize the Internet, and the European Union law requires equal rights for all gambling operators, governments are forced to put an end to their prohibitions and make the Scandinavian market open to online gambling.


The change of legislation in Sweden is a huge step forward for this market though. It creates tremendous prospects for online gambling operators in Sweden, and many believe that if the Swedish market develops enough to generate a steady income, the strength and influence of state monopolies in other countries in Scandinavia and European Union may be reduced as well.