Sweden is one of the largest European markets in the online gambling industry. Alongside the rest of the Scandinavian countries, they represent a huge player-base that is always looking for new avenues and platforms to scratch their gambling itch. However, online gambling in the country is heavily regulated by the local government and Spelinspektionen. Together, they impose strict limitations and rules on online casinos and prohibit those that are not licensed by Sweden to operate in the country. This heavy-handed approach has led to an outcry of public disapproval, as Swedish players are increasingly looking overseas for better services.
Unlicensed, does not always meet that the casino does not have a license. In this article we will compare the differences between Swedish-licensed casinos and casinos that hold different license.
Unlicensed casinos are online casinos that do not hold a license from any of the established regulatory bodies within the industry.
Such casino’s operations are unsanctioned by regulators and governments, and they are widely considered to be shady places to gamble with your money due to the high risk of scams.
However, Europeans often use the term “unlicensed casino” to refer to online casinos which are licensed but not by any of the mainland European regulators. Instead, they hold licenses issued by offshore regulators, such as Curacao, the Malta Gaming Authority (MGA), the United Kingdom Gambling Commission (UKGC), and others. Some of these offshore regulators are highly respected and trusted, as is the case with the UKGC or the MGA, while others, like Curacao, are less so. In Sweden’s case, the government restricts operations of online casinos within the country to only those that have acquired a license from Spelinspektionen, the local regulator. Any other casinos are generally unfavored by the authorities and, although not illegal for players, are not exactly sanctioned by the local government.
Popular Offshore Regulators
Although there are many overseas alternatives for licensing, there are several jurisdictions that are more prevalent, and you will come across these more often. There are three regulators that issue licenses for the majority of online casinos overseas. These are the United Kingdom Gambling Commission (UKGC), the Malta Gaming Authority (MGA), and the Curacao eGaming Authority. So, let’s have a closer look at each of these and see what they entail.
The United Kingdom Gambling Commission (UKGC) is one of the most strict and trusted regulators within the industry. Their central focus is customer protection and safety, and there are deeply committed to providing those. Whenever you see a casino licensed by the UK regulator, you can be assured that you will be playing in a fair and safe environment without any predatory practices. The UKGC imposes notoriously high fees and taxes on licensees. In fact, they are some of the highest in the industry. They also have rigorous, responsible gaming guidelines, which need to be followed to a tee if a casino wishes to maintain its license. Players must always have access to self-exclusion options and cooling off mechanics, as well as support resources for those struggling with addiction. Advertisement of gambling services is also greatly limited within the UK and only limited to certain hours.
The Malta Gaming Authority (MGA) is another trusted offshore regulator. As a member state of the EU, Malta and its governing authorities fall under the umbrella of the European judicial and regulatory systems. As a result, an MGA license will provide the same safeguards as any of the mainland licenses. Although lower than with the UKGC, the fees are still pretty substantial and act as an effective deterrent for any would-be scammers. The MGA also keeps a close watch on licensees to ensure that all terms and conditions on casino websites are above board and up to code with fair practice standards.
Last but not least is the Curacao eGaming Authority. This is one of the oldest regulators in the industry and is used by many popular online casinos. Those who are familiar with the country may know it for its long history as a longstanding offshore tax haven. The Curacao gambling regulator is somewhat of a less reliable one, as it has a bit of a spotty record when it comes to customer protection and safety. Although this regulatory body does provide some oversight, they have a much more relaxed approach when it comes to control. Although Curacao-licensed casinos often have incredibly large welcome bonuses and promotional offers, this will usually be offset by much higher wagering requirements that other regulators would not allow. The eGaming Authority also has some of the lowest fees when it comes to licensing, so many smaller or less-reputable casinos will gravitate towards this jurisdiction. However, most significant of all is the fact the Curacao authority will very rarely provide customers with support if they get caught up in a dispute with a casino. This is somewhat concerning, as the main focus of a regulator should be to protect users.
Sweden, like many other European countries, has an online gambling regulator. This is a governing body that sets laws and regulations, which need to be followed by online casinos should they like to receive a local license. In Sweden’s case, this is issued by the Swedish Gambling Authority (or Spelinspektionen), and such a license serves as a seal of approval by the regulator. It lets users know this is a safe and fair website that complies with local laws, where they can play without worrying.
Furthermore, it provides legal support to users from the authorities, should any issues arise. As of 2019, the Swedish government requires all online casinos operating within the country to hold a valid license from Spelinspektionen. Obtaining this is a costly endeavour that requires both time and money. Aside from the hefty issuance and maintenance fees, the license comes with strict rules that need to be followed to a tee if a certain casino wishes to be licensed by the Swedish Gambling Authority. However, there are no legal repercussions for users who choose to play at offshore casinos. In fact, many are often drawn to such casinos, as they have more options and features due to the more relaxed regulations overseas.
Here is a list of only some of the many requirements casinos need to meet in order to receive a Swedish license:
All customers need to be identified via BankID
Casinos must set specific limits on deposits and losses
Casinos are not allowed to issue credit to players
Casinos must keep track of all players’ gambling history
Casinos must partner with responsible gaming organizations and set safe gaming mechanisms in place
Advertising is severely limited in the country
All content on the website must be available in Swedish
Costs of a Swedish License
Aside from providing a laundry list of requirements, Spelinspektionen also charges steep fees for both applications and maintenance of licenses. If an operator would like to apply for a license for either an online betting service or an online casino services, they would need to pay 400,000 SEK for each. This is roughly €40,000 for a single license. If, however, they decide to apply for both at the same time, they will receive a slight discount and be charged only 700,000 SEK. And even after you have been successfully licensed, you will still need to pay a renewal fee of 300,000 SEK per license. Furthermore, operators of licensed casinos are taxed on their revenue at an 18% rate. This can eat up a sizable portion of their earnings, especially if they are looking to hold several licenses.
While these fees may seem high, they are actually quite reasonable when compared to others within the industry. In fact, they are in something of a middle sweet spot. On the one side, you have many offshore regulators that charge minimal fees and have lower standards. Although these provide some legitimacy, they are often regarded as less safe or trustworthy. On the other hand, there are some mainland regulators that charge much higher fees than Sweeden but provide the same level of security and assurance. These can often be costly for operators and do not have any significant added value that would justify the higher costs. This makes a Swedish license beneficial for both players and operators alike.
Is it Legal to Play at Casinos Without a Swedish License?
While casinos without a Swedish license are not allowed to operate within the country, there are no legal repercussions for residents who wish to play at offshore casinos. In fact, many players prefer such casinos as they have certain features unavailable in Spelinspektionen-approved casinos. However, playing at unlicensed casinos also holds certain risks that local regulations would otherwise eliminate. This is why some people are hesitant to make the leap and leave the confines of their regulator’s jurisdiction. Below we will examine precisely what pros and cons there are when playing in offshore casinos.
Pros of Casinos Without a Swedish License:
There are many reasons why players might prefer to play at casinos without a Swedish license. Most of these are related to their freedom of choice and richer options in terms of features. Bonuses, for one, are a significant factor that influences peoples’ decision. Since Spelinspektionen limit licensees’ ability to grant bonuses to one per customer, customers are left with very little incentive to continue playing at the same website. Offshore casinos, on the other hand, have no such restrictions. They often run multiple promotions and bonus offers at the same time. They are also able to offer various other incentives, such as weekly or monthly promotions, which can be redeemed multiple times.
Playing at offshore casinos comes with a certain level of privacy that is impossible to retain on their licensed counterparts. Since the Swedish authority requires all users’ identity to be verified via BankID before they can withdraw funds, this means that the government will have extensive information about all of your transactions. This is a significant downside for many, as privacy is an ever-growing concern in today’s world. Meanwhile, offshore casinos do not have such a rigorous identification process. While they might request copies of photo IDs, bank statements, and utility bills in order to comply with KYC laws, they will not notify government authorities unless they detect suspicious activities.
Mainland regulators, such as Spelinspektionen, often have very strict, almost draconian, rules and regulations. Although many of these are put in place to protect vulnerable people from predatory practices or addictive behaviour, they also significantly restrict players’ agency and choices. Limits on deposits prevent users from playing as much as they would like to and instead force them to spread their activity over a long period of time or several different websites. If you are on a losing streak and reach a certain amount of loss, you will again be barred from playing any further. Although with good intentions, this can prevent players from potentially turning their luck around and also restricts their freedom. The 3-second rule is another measure that can be quite annoying at times, as players on Swedish-licensed casinos are required to wait 3 seconds between slot spins.
With offshore casinos, all of these limitations are usually not present, so you will be able to gamble as much as you want, whenever you want. This gives you a sense of freedom and control that is very important for many players. These are often lacking in strictly-regulated casinos.
Cons of Casinos Without a Swedish License:
Possible Lack of Safety
The main reason to play at a casino that is licensed by a well-established and reputable regulator is the general safety. Such organizations provide much-needed security for players who are spending their hard-earned cash. Regulators make sure that these players are not taken advantage of by setting out guidelines and rules that casinos must follow. Mainland regulators have some of the strictest and most punishing statutes. These provide users with the peace of mind that they need to play worry-free, knowing that they will not be taken advantage of. Self-exclusion and responsible gambling are also very important aspects of this, as they serve as precautions for vulnerable people. While some offshore regulators also provide great security, many others are lacking in this department. Whenever you are playing at a casino licensed by such a regulator, it is essential that you do your research beforehand to make sure that you are in safe hands.
Swedish Payment Options may be Unavailable
Some payment features that Swedish players might have grown accustomed to are not available overseas. Swish, for example, only works with Spelinspektionen-licensed casinos. This means that this popular Swedish payment provider will not be available on any unlicensed casinos. Additionally, the Swedish local currency- the Krona (SEK) is not always available on international websites. This means that users from Sweden will need to deposit funds in a different currency which will result in exchange fees being charged.
No National Self-exclusion System
The Swedish National Self-exclusion system Spalpaus does not have access to overseas casinos and as a result, you will not be able to take advantage of its mechanisms. Since the system uses your ID and the network of Swedish-licensed casinos to enforce any restrictions you may have set up for yourself, offshore casinos will not be affected by it. Although these casinos have their own mechanisms that allow players to self-exclude, they do not fall under Spelpaus jurisdiction. This makes them less suitable for at-risk players.
One of the major factors when it comes to Swedish casinos is payments. Swedish banks will usually refuse payments to and from casinos outside of the country’s jurisdiction. As a result, offshore casinos are unable to provide payment services via direct banking. As a workaround, they often utilize online payment services, e-wallets, or cryptocurrencies. However, the available options will vary depending on where exactly a given casino is licensed. For example, ones licensed by the UKGC will not accept payments from credit cards, as that is prohibited by local laws. Below we have listed some of the most popular methods that you will find when playing at such casinos.
Cryptocurrencies are also a very popular choice that has arisen over the past several years. With the boom in the sector, many different types have sprung up, and their value has grown exponentially. For those of you who are new to the subject, cryptocurrencies are a decentralized digital currency that operates on blockchain technology. Since there is no central institution to control transactions, they are instead all taken down on a so-called ledger which is saved on all users’ crypto wallet. This ledger will continuously update and is made up of an always-connected network of the existing wallets (the Blockchain). This makes it impossible to hack the system or steal others’ funds.
Cryptocurrencies also provide great privacy to users, as wallets will often be identifiable only with a string of numbers. This has made cryptos the payment method of choice for those who wish to stay anonymous. However, more recently, regulation has been tightening in this sector as well. Although governments are unable to control the currencies, their skyrocketing rise in value has led to increased scrutiny and attention.
Many crypto wallet services will now require identity verification from their customers in order to curb money laundering and other financial crimes. Here is a list of some of the most popular and high-value cryptocurrencies that you will likely come across when playing at online casinos:
Bitcoin Cash (BCH)
Casinos Without a Swedish License FAQ
In Sweden, the term “Unlicensed Casino” refers to an online casino that does not hold a license from the Swedish Gambling Authority (Spelinspektionen). Such casinos will instead be licensed by offshore regulators such as the MGA or Curacao and will differ from locally licensed ones in terms of features. Although a bit riskier to use, offshore casinos will still be generally safe to use as they do actually hold a license by an established governing body.
While some players may feel that offshore casinos are not as safe as Swedish-licensed ones, many of them are actually entirely secure. Even though they operate overseas, such casinos will most likely be regulated by a local authority which will provide many of the same assurances as Spelinspektionen.
For example, both the UKGC and the MGA are foreign regulators that offer excellent support to customers and create a safe gambling environment through the use of strict guidelines and high fees for operators. However, you should always be mindful when choosing an offshore casino, as some regulators are less trustworthy than others. Such is the case with the Curacao authority, which has more relaxed rules and will often refuse assistance to players in cases of dispute with a casino.
Although the government does not allow casinos without a Spelinspektionen license to operate in the country, there are no legal repercussions for players who choose to visit them. If you would like to gamble on such a website, you can do so freely without needing to worry about breaking the law.
However, in an effort to combat offshore gambling, the Swedish government has taken steps to prevent players from accessing overseas casino websites. For example, you may find that your Internet Service Provider (ISP) is blocking such websites since the government can require them to do so. Some players have found that using VPN services can circumvent such geo-blocking, but this is also a risky venture as the casinos themselves will often prohibit the use of such methods.
Well, this depends on the casino that you are playing on. If you are plating on a casino that is regulated within the borders of the EU, like Malta, you will not be taxed on your winnings. This is due to European regulations on the Single Market and European Economic Area (EEA). If, however, your casino of choice is licensed outside of the European Union, as is the case with Curacao, you will have to pay a 30% tax on all winnings over 100 SEK.
All casinos will usually have self-exclusion features available. These will often include lockout periods that you can set up. You will also be able to set limits on deposits and losings as you see fit. However, these features will often be only half-measures, as you are able to deactivate them or change them at any time. Furthermore, offshore casinos are not affected by any of the Swedish national responsible gambling systems, such as Spelpaus. This is due to the fact that they only work on Spelinspektionen-licensed casinos and use your ID in order to lock you out of all casinos and not just a single website.
Casinos without a Swedish license will often have a great variety of payment methods. However, local banks will often block transactions to and from such websites in an effort to stop them from operating in Sweden. As a result, players from the country will need to use online payment services as a workaround so that payments are not made directly. Popular choices among these are Neteller, Skrill, Neosurf, Trustly, Interac, Paysafecard, EcoPayz, MuchBetter, Giropay, Cash2Code, and other eWallets or fintech services. Cryptocurrencies are also a popular payment method for offshore casinos, with Bitcoin, Litecoin, Ethereum, and Ripple being among the most used ones.
There are a great many online casinos that do not hold a Swedish license. In fact, there are certainly more of them then there are of those that are licensed by Spelinspektionen since there are numerous offshore regulators. Their number will only grow as time goes on as the online gambling industry is ever-growing and rising in popularity. This will provide you with ample choices when looking for a website to spend some quality time on.
A gambling license from the Swedish authority can be very costly and comes with strict guidelines which must be followed precisely. Not all operators are willing to invest so much time and effort to acquire a Swedish license, and many others do not want their operations to be limited by the regulator. For example, Spelinspektionen limits bonus offers to only one per customer. This means that Swedish casinos can only give out one welcome bonus and no other promotions. Licensing fees are also high, with a casino license costing 400,000 SEK, which is accompanied by an 18% tax on revenue.
In the rest of the world, much like in Sweden, the minimum age required to gamble is 18. So, if you would like to register for an online casino website and gamble, be it for free or with real money, you will need to be at least 18 years old. Anyone who is not at least 18 is not legally allowed to register, deposit, or play at online casinos.