Friday January 10,2014 : SWEDISH GAMBLING ADVERTISING DEBATE HOTS UP
Svenska Spel and newspaper trade association exchange broadsides on internet gambling advertising.
There's no love lost between Sweden's state gambling monopoly Svenska Spel and the Nordic country's advertising and media industry, thanks to the monopoly's attempts to have gambling ads for its rivals in other EU nations stopped, and media appeals to the European Commission that Sweden may be in contravention of EU law .
Getting 2014 off to a less than amicable start, the politically well-connected chairman of Svenska Spel, Anitra Steen, used the financial and business newspaper Dagens Industry to launch a surprisingly outspoken and aggressive attack on Tidningsutgivarna – a trade association for the newspapers – and its members, accusing them of being used by unnamed "illegal gambling" elements and claiming that they were motivated by desperation at falling advertising revenues.
She defended allegations that Svenska Spel and the government were in violation of EU law through the monopolistic nature of her company, at one point asserting that the efforts to involve the EC in December by Tidningsutgivarna were pointless, and that for the newspapers the party was over – a phrase seized upon in subsequent media reports.
A response from Tidningsutgivarna was inevitable, and it was not long in coming.
Speaking for the organisation, CEO Per Hultengård, argued that virtually everything the Svenska Spel chairman had said in Dagen Industry was incorrect and misleading, and that the proof of this would be European Commission action.
It was pointed out that the attempted ban on advertising was unconstitutional and inconsistent (televised advertising from the UK was still being screened) and that a monopoly that was supposedly set up to protect the players has been steadily ramping up its own marketing from SEK 290 million in 2006 to SEK436 million in 2012.
The Scandinavian online poker information site PokerNews Nordic reports that Steen is well-versed in business monopolies, having worked for the Swedish liquor monopoly Systembolaget previously. She is married to former Swedish prime minister Göran Persson.
Nevertheless, the information site doubts that there will be any immediate official action on either side beyond the public wrangling; it opines:
"It is election year in Sweden and the EU this year and politicians are not very likely to risk anything for what they consider is something that only affects a small group of voters."