The Legality of Online Casinos in the European Market – UK, Sweden and Finland
While places like Las Vegas, Atlantic City and recently Macau may immediately cross the minds of most people when the word gambling is mentioned, there’s also the online casino sphere, which is changing the landscape. The growth of the online casino industry is evident as seen in the increasing number of massive casino related expos. These expos are held in different parts of the world, including the UK, to discuss different technological advancements in the online casino industry.
For instance, at the ICE Totally Gaming event that’s usually held in London, matters such as responsible gaming and new game releases are usually the topics that are discussed. Most importantly, the legality of online casinos, popularity, and growth in influence of online casinos in the iGaming industry are also talked about.
In this brief post, we are going to talk mostly about the legality of the online casino sphere. We are especially going to focus on three countries, which have the highest number of online casino gamers. We’ll look at how their populations choose to play the games and which games they prefer most.
Exploring Player Averages
Before we can go into deeper details for each country, it’s important to have a look at who the average player is in the three countries. Surprisingly enough, statistics indicate that there’s a similar trend in all three countries. Video slot games also seem to be the most popular games among the three countries.
Average Slot Player Online
In the three countries, the average video slot player is male, aged between 25 and 34 years old. Each player will visit the online casino 2 to 3 times a week to satisfy his thirst for playing slot games. By the time this player chooses to play at the casino, he has roughly 3 years of experience behind him. At the casinos, his session lasts for an hour or 2. Sometimes, the player might decide to switch games and will opt to play roulette mostly. Blackjack is the other alternative, though it’s not as popular as roulette.
Average Online Casino Player
The average player who visits the online casino is a woman aged 44 – 54 years old. Just like her male counterpart, she’ll visit the online casino 2 to 3 times a week and will share a similar experience as her male counterpart at the slot machines. However, on average, she’ll spend up to 3 hours of her day playing the slot games – either for fun or real money. Unlike her male counterpart, she’ll have up to six different accounts online. During 3 months of playing, she’ll have visited all the six casinos and spent on average €50 on each site.
Other important facts worth mentioning include the following:
• In Sweden, the gambling spending amount per individual is estimated to be €237
• Sweden’s underground online gambling industry reached €350 annually
• In Finland, men tend to participate more in skill-based games (blackjack and poker), while women prefer games of chance (roulette and slots mostly)
• In Finland, the amount spent on gambling is higher among men that it is among women
• In the UK, the online gambling industry is the single biggest sector that contributes almost 34% of the £13.8bn gross gambling income of the UK market.
Still, in order to have a clear picture of the online gambling industry of these three countries, it’s important to have a deeper understanding of each country. A quick overview of its unique laws, traditions and established norms is important.
The United Kingdom
The United Kingdom enjoys an active and ever-growing gambling industry. From the all-night casinos and the high street betting shops located in different cities to the booming online sphere for UK casino gambling and sports betting, there are plenty of options for the average UK bettor who fancies a flutter. Fortunately, both for operators and players, the United Kingdom benefits from reasonably liberal betting laws.
While it might be unfair for a Brit to say that the United Kingdom approach is somewhat about right, it does compare favourably to the legal perspectives in the likes of Germany and the United States, while not being so flexed as to allow for rip off operators and scammers to ply their trade.
But, what’s the legal position and what are some of the most important rules that you need to understand before you can decide to compete for the share of the £13.8bn gross gambling income of the UK market?
Who Gambles Most? The age restriction stands at 18 years old for all players, unless you’ve decided to play the National Lottery or buy a Scratchcard, in which case players as young as 16 years old can get involved.
How Are The Operators Licensed?
By law, all operators in the United Kingdom have to be licensed. This is applicable to all bookmakers and casinos online. They have to be licensed before they can start accepting bets from UK punters.
There were recent developments in the UK Gambling laws, which have tightened the licensing requirements for operators. Previously, being licensed in any reputable global jurisdiction was enough to offer services in the UK gambling market. With the new laws, operators are now required to have a UK license issued by the UK Gambling Commission.
Which Are The Most Popular Games?
The United Kingdom has a long history in betting on greyhound and horse races as well as different lotteries. However, it’s worth underlying the fact that sports betting in the United Kingdom grew to offer the highest number of betting markets, mostly from in-play events.
Sweden Online Gambling Market
Bettors in the United Kingdom take their iGaming license from granted. Yet in reality, there are countries, including within the European Union that are still struggling and debating on how to legalize their online gambling sphere. Sweden happens to be one of these countries. If you’ve been keen, following developments there, you’ll know that the country has progressed greatly and have finally come up with a new law that will go live on 1st January 2019.
What’s All the New Law About?
In short, the new law has included new elements that look at tackling licensing fees, responsible gambling and licensing supervision. The new law was approved by the Swedish parliament on 7th June 2018 but was pushed to the European Commission for approval. This pushed back the country’s initial plan of launching them at the start of August.
Below is a quick breakdown of the new gambling law (SFS 2018:1138) that will become effective as from January 2019:
• Age limit will be restricted to 18 years for online gaming and 21 years for land-based casino gaming
• All the companies are expected to pay an 18% tax for commercial gaming
• There’s no tax to be paid on all non-profit gambling activities
• The price of licenses will vary from $40,000 – $80,000, equivalent to 400,000 – 800,000 SEK
• There will be six types of licenses. They include the Cruise Ships Games license, the Commercial Land-based Games license, the Betting license, the Commercial Online Games license, the Public Purpose Games license and State-Owned Games license.
In Sweden, there are different types of bettors. The older generation prefers playing slot machine games (both online and at the land-based establishments). The newer generation, on the other hand, prefers betting on football and golf mostly.
Finland Online Gambling Market
Formerly part of Sweden and later the Russian empire, the Republic of Finland has over the years had a government controlled monopoly, which has been in place before World War II. Even with the recent pressure that the country has been receiving from the European Union and even after the introduction of online gambling, the country’s gambling structure has barely had any changes since then. From the look of things, there seems to be no intention of doing so any time soon.
Finland’s Legal Landscape
The Finish government predominantly controls all the gambling activities in Finland. All the gambling services and products are under the exclusive control of the following providers:
• Raha-automaattiyhdistys – Popularly referred to as RAY
• Veikkaus Oy
• Fintoto Oy
Fintoto Oy is responsible for regulating the horseracing betting industry. Veikkaus Oy, on the other hand, is responsible for running the Finnish National Lottery. But the most significant body is the Raha-automaattiyhdistys.
As of January 2017, Raha-automaattiyhdistys (RAY) was tasked with the important role of regulating the games offered in the online casino industry. This body is responsible for offering a large palette of online casino games including slots, video poker, table games and most importantly the popular RAY jackpots.
An interestingly exceptional and popular Finnish betting target and past time is the sport of Pesäpallo. Pesäpallo is a variation of baseball and was developed in the 1920s. Since then, it has become a common sport among the Fins, and many usually consider it as the national sport of Finland.
Other than that, the country’s less than tropical climate has seen winter sports such as skiing and ice hockey become very popular. This has translated into the online gambling sphere where people place bets as they watch some of the events from across the world.