evolution of casino online Sweden

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People who book a holiday or weekend trip to Sweden will typically do so to visit Stockholm or one of Sweden’s thousands of peninsulas. The more adventurous might want to try to catch a glimpse of a moose or the Northern Lights. What the average person might not know is that Sweden has lots to offer when it comes to iGaming too. In this guide we’ll tell you everything about iGaming in Sweden – 20 years of iGaming that is. 

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Going through the two decades of iGaming history you’ll discover more about some of the biggest casino Sweden brands in the industry and we’ll also make a few jumps to Malta as this Mediterranean iGaming destination is directly related to Sweden’s progress in the industry. If you’ve come across brands like Betsson, LeoVegas, NetEnt, Play’n Go and Trustly, you’ll discover today that they were all launched by Swedish entrepreneurs. 

Where it all started

As in many countries, gambling authorities were initially created to combat illegal gambling. In Sweden this happened back in 1934, when the Scandinavian country founded Tipstjänst in response to illegal gambling. The private company Tipstjänst received permission from the Swedish state to start its betting business and for a long time, Tipstjänst acted as a state-owned casino. In 1997, Tipstjänst merged with the state lottery Penninglotteriet, resulting in the foundation of what we now know as Svenska Spel. 

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Today, Svenska Spel is responsible for three separate activities: Sport & Casino (sports and horse racing games, online casinos, online poker and online bingo), Tour (scratch cards and lotteries) and Casino Cosmopol: the four land-based casinos in Sweden. The activities of Svenska Spel are controlled by the Spelinspektionen, the Swedish variant of the UKGC, the MGA, or whatever gaming authority sounds more familiar to you. 

Sweden opening up to the world of iGaming

For a long time, the way the gambling legislation in Sweden was set up, led to a lot of criticism in both the Scandinavian nation and the European Union, because there was basically a monopoly going on in the country. The Swedish government long refused to comply with the demands of the European Commission (EC), which frequently asked the country to modernise gambling legislation and open the market to foreign providers as the countries part of the EC are expected to open up to economic integration among its member states, rather than closing the borders for foreign based companies. 

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In line with other European countries opening up to online gaming, there would also be more calls in Sweden to liberalise the gambling market. In 2018, the word was finally out: the gambling law would be revised, which particularly affected the offer of online games of chance. In January 2019 the new Gambling Act was introduced, and online gaming was regulated.

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Swedish start-ups popping up like mushrooms

Things have rapidly changed ever since. In 2020, a total number of 81 new gambling companies opened their doors in Sweden. This is quite a number as a significant portion of the gaming companies that are launched in Sweden have turned out to be highly successful. Something that definitely helps starting entrepreneurs in the country is that there are lots of start-up hubs and iGaming clusters to help new organisations kick off their activities. 

Sweden is also considered one of the top 10 most competitive nations in the world, according to the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Index (during its last pre-pandemic list). This high ranking is explained by the country’s stable economy over time, high rate of ICT adoption, innovative capability, and entrepreneurship.

Swedish casino companies with offices in Malta 2022

Although Sweden plays a major role in the world of iGaming, it could have played a much bigger role if companies would stick to their home country which has been far from the case in recent years. Instead of opening offices in Sweden, a lot of companies have moved to Malta over the years which is considered the world’s other iGaming’s capital, especially for European operators. Swedish companies have turned their attention to Malta because it was one of the first nations in the world to legalise online gaming and because of its low taxes. And it doesn’t look like they’re thinking of coming back home. 

Malta’s favourable market conditions

The flux of foreign companies to Malta also raises the question about the many gambling companies of Swedish origin that have set up shop in Malta in recent years, including some of the industry’s big names such as Betsson and LeoVegas. A high number of big Swedish gaming brands keep their corporate headquarters in Sweden, but nowadays offer their gaming operations in Malta and it’s easy to understand why. Swedish operators didn’t only choose Malta as their new location because of its highly acclaimed policy on licensing. They were also highly attracted to the small island for its low taxes, including an effective corporate tax rate of merely 0-5%, in combination with tight regulation and strict supervision, it offers the perfect market conditions for online gaming companies to thrive and flourish. 

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Although companies that are located in Malta must now pay 18% of their revenues from Swedish users to the country’s tax authorities, they avoid paying Swedish corporate tax if they’re not actually located there. 

Operators

There are now lots of operators who offer their online casinos, live dealer casinos, and sportsbooks to players in Sweden, while being based in Malta. These include companies such as:

  • Betsson: arguably the biggest Swedish betting company that offers gaming products, such as casino, online poker, bingo, scratch cards, and sports betting via more than twenty online gaming brands including Betsson and NordicBet. Despite being based in Malta, Betsson is listed on the Nasdaq Stockholm Large Cap List.
  • LeoVegas: a well-known, internationally operating provider of online casino and sports betting services including a wide range of table games, slot games, jackpot slots, video poker and live sports betting. LeoVegas is known on a worldwide scale.
  • BetSafe: an absolute veteran in a highly competitive industry that started offering its online services in 2006. Betsafe is an online casino and bookie owned by the previously mentioned Betsson Group and has managed to become a recognisable and exciting brand itself as well. BetSafe offers pretty much everything that relates to online gaming to around 450,000 customers from over 100 different countries.
  • Mr Green: offers players from all over the world a complete gaming product including an online casino, sportsbook, live dealer casino, bingo, and keno. Besides being licenced in Sweden, Mr Green Ltd is also regulated by the MGA in Malta, the UKGC in the UK, and holds licences in other countries such as Italy, Denmark, and Ireland. Mr Green’s head office is based in Sliema, Malta.
  • Unibet: provides a platform for sports betting, slots, table games, bingo and online poker to over 11 million players in over 100 countries. Unibet is a part of the widely known Kindred Group which is a major operator that consists of 11 brands including names like Stan James, 32Red, and iGame. Today, Unibet offers jobs to 1,500 people and holds offices in Malta, the UK, US, and Gibraltar among others. 

Providers with Swedish roots

A large portion of the games that are found in online casinos is also produced by Malta located companies with Swedish roots. Swedish companies doing it this way are: 

  • Play’n Go: a multi-award-winning online casino software company with branches in both Sweden and Malta. This software company is well-known for developing top-notch online games and is considered one of the top providers in the market. Chances are that your favourite casino offers a game or two that are produced by Play’n Go as their titles are widely available in many online casinos.
  • Evolution Group: a Sweden-born company that is now based in Malta and highly popular in the live dealer part of the industry. Evolution is licenced in many countries and was the first to introduce the concept of live dealer games that used live dealers instead of Random Number Generators (RNG). The Evolution Gaming Group AB also provides fully integrated B2B live dealer solutions to operators.
  • NetEnt: this company grew out of a traditional casino, Cherryföretagen whose history goes back to 1963. The year 2006 turned out to be the year that NetEnt moved its main office elsewhere and decided to establish itself in Malta. Now, the company is spread over various cities in various countries, such as Kiev, Gothenburg, and Gibraltar. NetEnt was acquired by Evolution in June 2020, but still operates as a separate brand for online games.
  • Yggdrasil: was launched in 2013 by a former CEO of NetEnt which explains its rapid growth within a relatively short period of time. Yggdrasil tries to focus exclusively on slot games that are known to be packed with thrilling features. What players will discover when they start spinning Yggdrasil’s slots is that this company works with themes that often have a Scandinavian touch.
  • Quickspin: this operator’s story is rather remarkable as well: once again several ex-employees of NetEnt got the idea to develop games independently resulting in the launch of Quickspin. And boy has this paid off. The provider immediately won several important iGaming prizes, such as the EGR Award for the best slot game of 2013. Since then, things have gone fast with the Swedish-Maltese developer. Many casinos started to include Quickspin’s slots in their catalogues. With offices in both Sweden and Malta, it also saw a significant increase in the number of employees. 

Gambling licences

Spelinspektionen, the Swedish Gambling Authority was only founded in 2019, but it has managed to impress ever since. The main purpose of the Swedish Gambling Authority isn’t very different from authorities that operate in other countries. Spelinspektionen was founded to make gambling legal and safe and prepare for the legalisation of online gaming. The authority is also responsible for issuing gaming licences to Swedish casinos online and operators who wish to offer their services to Swedish players. There are actually 6 different types of licences that are issued depending on the venue of the gambling activities offered. 

Licences are only given to those who are deemed to have sufficient knowledge to run the operation and are considered fit in all other aspects. The Swedish Gambling Authority carefully assesses every application before a licence is eventually granted. Licences in Sweden are issued for a maximum period of five years and can be renewed every quinquennial. A casino without Swedish licence is technically considered illegal in the country.

Difference with other gaming licences

Consequently, the Swedish gaming licence is considered to be one of the most authoritative in Europe with the main difference being that companies who apply for a Swedish licence tend to do that to focus on Sweden and not on other markets. Although highly respected, this creates a different situation than with a licence by the Malta Gaming Authority (MGA) that is internationally used, even to operate in countries other than Malta. The same is true for licences that are granted in Curaçao. Although less highly regarded, licences from Curaçao are widely used to operate in international markets. As a rule of thumb: European licences are typically considered to be of high quality while the opposite tends to be true for those that are issued outside of Europe. 

How has technology changed the iGaming industry?

Internet access is one of the fundamentals of our digital economies as well as a way to access and play online casino games. Internet connectivity got a relatively early start in Sweden, with ambitious government goals for broadband access across the nation. The widespread availability of high-speed internet has most likely had its part in Sweden’s role as a nation of gamers and game providers. The same holds true for the mobile penetration rate in the Scandinavian country that is stated to be one of the highest in the world. Although this situation is not unique to Sweden, all casino Sweden games produced by Swedish providers are fully optimised for mobile and tend to follow a mobile first approach. 

Both operators and providers have revolutionised the industry

While doing so, casino Sweden companies keep adding the latest tech innovations to thrive in the gambling industry. The Swedish online gambling market is regarded as one of the most innovative industries in the world which was shown on both sides of the market. 

Evolution as a provider, for instance, managed to get the most out of the technology by taking the brick-and-mortar casino ambiance to one’s living room. It successfully went ahead and integrated HD streams into what was called real live dealer casinos, giving players the opportunity to make real money bets on games that were hosted by a live dealer. Instead of the Random Number Generator (RNG) generating the outcome, suddenly it would be real human dealers rolling the dice and spinning the wheels. Not only did this shake up Swedish casinos online, but it affected the industry on a global scale.

Casino Sweden: Next level payment solutions

The way you can deposit to and withdraw from your player account on an online casino, has significantly improved in the past 20 years. One of the most important casino development trends is the variety of ways players can deposit to and withdrawal from their accounts. Casinos once only accepted debit cards or bank transfers, but nowadays there are a lot more deposit methods available. Users can deposit through third-party e-wallets such as PayPal, Neteller or Skrill. If you choose any of these methods your card details aren’t shared with the casino but instead handled by the e-wallet company. 

Technology has also made online payments a lot safer and faster which is why players nowadays are able to instantly play thanks to the integration of e-wallets. One of the biggest game changers in the online gambling industry is Trustly. Their Pay N Play function, which was first launched in Sweden, has made its way to the rest of the world as well. It is considered a faster and cheaper alternative for other e-wallets like PayPal. 

Withdrawals are typically made to the same payment method you used for depositing which in this case is done to Trustly who launched Pay N Play especially for casinos. Pay N Play Swedish casinos online are often referred to as no account casinos as users don’t need to fill in registration forms themselves. Technically they do have accounts though.

Bank ID

Another payment method that is uniquely Swedish is the Bank ID that allows players to play at any participating casino without having to register first. This is very convenient to players who might not want to spend time with registration and would not like to share their data with the online casino. The Bank ID service also makes it possible for users to sign transactions and documents online. Instead of printing, signing, and sending documents with the post, you can sign the doc online with your BankID, saving both time and effort. As a lot of Swedish users are already familiar with Bank ID, many casinos have integrated this option to their sites. Previously mentioned Pay N Play by Trusly follows the same approach. By linking the site to your Bank ID, an account is automatically generated. 

Online casino Sweden: efforts made for gambling addiction in the last decades

Spelinspektionen tries to apply modern principles to facilitate gaming in a responsible and regulated manner with the limitation and prevention of gambling addictions as one of the biggest challenges. The Swedish gambling law of 2019 clearly states that providers should protect players against addiction. One of the reasons to come up with this new law was to promote safe gaming and consequently prevent players from visiting foreign, non-regulated sites. 

The most recent Swedish Gambling Act entered into force on 1 January 2019 and states that only casinos that hold a valid licence issued by Spelinspektionen are considered legal in the country. Players’ behaviour should be monitored at all times by these licencees and, if necessary, measures will need to be taken while enough tools and information needs to be granted to promote and facilitate responsible gaming. 

In addition, persons under the age of 18 are not allowed to gamble in Sweden and the games of chance providers must offer assistance in case a user contacts the casino in the search of help against addictive behaviour. The Swedish authority also protects consumers against rigged casino games and combats fraud, money laundering, and other sorts of crime. Strict compliance with the law prevents illegal providers from entering the market. That should give players safe and sound platforms. Some industry experts, however, claim that the authority is too strict.

Sweden casino bonus kept down to a minimum

For instance, Swedish efforts to keep down gambling addictions have also highly affected the Sweden casino bonus. In Sweden, bonuses can only be given away to players upon account creation at a casino Sweden. It is not allowed anymore to hand out bonuses to existing players as an extra incentive to stick to the casino. The maximum height of these bonuses was also known to be a lot lower than in other countries, which is a topic we will touch upon later in this guide. 

Another characteristic of Sweden based online casinos is that they are required to follow strict rules in terms of account settings. Every player should be able to adjust his or her settings and lower the maximum deposit amounts and session lengths. During the pandemic, the Swedish government intervened multiple times by limiting bonuses, maximum deposits, and session durations. 

What are the most popular markets for casino Sweden? 

There are lots of casino games to be found in Swedish casinos online like in any online casino around the world, but there’s no doubt that some of them enjoy more interest than others. Here’s a quick look through some of the country’s most-played games:

  • Sports betting: in a lot of countries sports betting has managed to become the most sought-after game of chance and Sweden is no exception. Bookmakers tend to be even more successful than online casinos and with all sorts of sports and markets to bet on, sports betting as well as eSports betting has also shown to be highly popular in Sweden. Interestingly, bets on Premier League matches are just as popular as betting on local football games in the Swedish national league.
  • Slots: slot games are pretty much everywhere in the gambling world and the same holds for Sweden. Whether you visit one of the four brick-and-mortar casinos in the country or play in the many online options, there will be plenty of opportunities for you to spin on and try to make a win.
  • Poker: as one of the most well-known card games in the world, poker can’t be missed in an average Swedish casino. Some of them offer all sorts of poker tournaments, others offer just live poker or online poker, and some might have a decent amount of video poker games too. Whatever type of poker you’re after, it is most likely that any average Swedish operator won’t lack any options.
  • Roulette: yet another classic casino game and it’s not hard to understand why the game of roulette has managed to uphold such a high level of popularity over the years in many regions around the globe, including Sweden. There are obviously slight variations in how the game is played in different parts of the world, but you’ll most likely see the standard European rules wherever you play a game of roulette in a casino Sweden. Both online and live roulette are widely available in Swedish casinos.
  • Blackjack: while there are different variants out there, standard blackjack is one of the most popular games among Swedish gamblers. Requiring a fair level of strategy and skills, blackjack is far from a game of luck. If you don’t happen to have a lot of experience in blackjack, it might be worth taking some time to become more familiar with the rules first before moving on to real money wagers.

2020: a turbulent year for online casino Sweden 

Every new regulated gaming market experience a few growing pains at some point, and this has certainly been the case for Sweden. In fact, the Swedish gaming market has had a lot more than a few. Since it got regulated in 2019, the market has had big difficulties for not only the nation’s Spelinspektionen, which strictly fines operators for breaching local rules, but also for the market’s operators, who endured years with rather disappointing revenues. 

It is therefore fair to say that it has been a bumpy ride for providers in Sweden, because the government has come up with a wide range of restrictions that legal operators from the country must adhere to. There are deposit limits, loss limits, bonus limits and session limits. These are all clearly intended to protect the player, although according to industry experts that also has a secondary effect; namely that of players who try their luck elsewhere where they don’t have to deal with these kinds of restrictions. 

To illustrate the extent of the measures: for the welcome bonus, Swedish providers were only allowed to offer 100 Kronor to new players, which is around €10, during the hight of the pandemic. This made the only Sweden casino bonus pretty worthless compared to the big numbers offered in online casinos abroad.

As of now, in 2022, the previous restrictions have eased, and Swedish casinos online are free to offer a bonus amount of their choice to new players. 

Casino in Sweden: are land-based casinos dying out? 

There are currently four casinos operating in Sweden that are located in the relatively large cities of Sweden: Stockholm, Gothenburg, Malmö and Sundsvall. All Swedish casinos are owned by Casino Cosmopol, a state monopoly under Svenska Spel. The casinos have a normal range of games in their assortment, including classic casino games, such as roulette, blackjack, poker, and slot machines, to baccarat and scratch cards. It is not expected that new casino venues will open any time soon.

The opposite is true for their online counterparts. The introduction of the internet has led to a major shift from traditional casinos to online casinos and the same thing has happened in Sweden. Today, gamers from virtually any location globally with access to the internet are spoilt for choice when it comes to gambling options. The web grants access to about any casino game one can think of, including all the games available in the four land-based venues in Sweden. It doesn’t really matter when or which game Swedish players want to play, there are always options available in online casinos that work round the clock. Their options are a lot more diverse online than the merely four brick and mortar casinos.

Still the real deal

Even though the future of land-based gaming looked rather bleak when online casinos Sweden were first introduced, gamblers in the country will be pleased to discover that the niche is not going anywhere. Even with the fast pace at which online casinos have grown, the decline previously faced by brick-and-mortar casinos appears to be reversing in recent years — with the pandemic being an obvious exemption. 

Rather than dying off like other niches that were affected by the technological innovations brought by the internet, location-based gambling venues choose to innovate, adapt, and readapt. Like in other countries, Swedish casinos have started to offer a full-scale entertainment package as well which has turned out to be a successful approach. For most players in the country, a casino visit means much more than making a wager. Most players that head to a land-based casinos seek a fun night out, an experience, and this is only to be found in a real venue. Even live casinos with Swedish hosts can’t compete with the real deal. 

Summary and future

Each country has its own speciality and although Sweden has more than a few, giving fans of iGaming the best the industry has to offer is definitely one of them. Stockholm is considered one of gaming’s capitals by some and it is easy to see why if you take a closer look at all the productions brought to the world from Sweden’s biggest city. At the same time, Sweden’s reputation is disputed by Malta’s privileged position and the Mediterranean island has managed to take away a lot of Sweden’s potential. Many Swedish entrepreneurs have either moved to Malta or have decided to directly launch their services from Malta. This has led to a major demand for gaming licences of the Malta Gaming Authority (MGA) which is widely considered the best licence to operate on a global scale. 

Malta as Sweden’s backup

Despite having Swedish owners and employees a lot of the Malta based companies of Swedish origin don’t seem to consider relocating back to Stockholm. Sadly, this is partially due to the Scandinavian country’s own rules and restrictions which are expected to push more and more talent and players away from Sweden to other countries and it is likely that Malta will be the alternative destination to benefit from this. Interestingly, despite Swedish authorities having had more time to analyse the effects of its gambling reforms, it has introduced stricter rules instead of loosening up and there are yet more restrictions to come. 

The Swedish government has the last word

Industry experts in the country believe that both land-based, and online casinos can coexist just like companies that are launched in Sweden and those that prefer to do so in Malta can offer their services on the same market. At the same time, online casinos are expected to grow as well, with more focus on live dealer studios, better graphics, and maybe even more crypto than initially wished for by governmental institutions giving players high speed platforms that can be accessed any time and at any place. 

Meanwhile, the Swedish government continues to play a major role to what extent it forces both players and operators to find their luck elsewhere. If the Swedish authorities don’t rapidly change the way it limits operators and players, people might as well play at foreign platforms, no matter how slick the lobby and how user friendly the Sweden built website.

Disclaimer: Play responsibly. Players must be over 18. For help visit https://www.gamcare.org.uk/

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