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Scandinavian News

by Ola Brandborn |  Published: May 01, 2007

At the time of this writing, the latest news in Scandinavia concerns the recent case against a prosecuted poker club owner from Halmstad, Sweden. The defense had pleaded not guilty due to not being open for everybody - and won the case!

Of course, there is going to be an appeal, but the first round is won. The club owner was charged partly with breaking the alcohol laws (he had massive amounts of liquor for sale) and partly with breaking the lottery laws. The latter is less uncompromising than the gambling laws, which he avoided by arranging freezeout tournaments. In order to be accused of breaking the gambling laws, the play would need some element of adventure, like a cash game. Neither was he convicted of serving alcohol without license nor found guilty by the law of commiting any crime against the gaming act.

The verdict is very interesting, because I think it means that the police will not be going after Swedish clubs as long as they don't arrange cash games and rebuy tournaments - at least as long as the clubs don't grow too big.

Ladbrokes vs. the EU
As you may know, there are state monopolies on gambling in several European countries; apart from Scandinavia, Italy was recently on trial in the highest European court instance for arresting three people on the grounds of them breaking current gambling laws. The court found that the state monopoly does, in fact, not allow Italy to fine anybody working for foreign gambling companies as long as those companies are based in the EU.

Ladbrokes has been running a similar argument for a few years now. They've challenged the Swedish state, appealed against the Norwegian government disallowing a licensing application, and appealed against the Netherlands, too, in order to once again be able to accept bets from Dutch citizens.

Basically, Ladbrokes is saying that single-market rules should apply - while Norway, Sweden, and the Netherlands are against it. The European Court of Human Rights is currently investigating the Ladbrokes vs. Sweden case.

Since Norway isn't a part of the EU, it might be possible for them to uphold a monopoly, but they should still allow advertisements and companies licensed in the EU to operate inside the country, according to EFTA Court rulings. The Netherlands case is still in national courts, but in Sweden, the matter's been taken to the European Court of Justice.

Clever Norwegians
As I stated in my last column, the Swedish Poker Federation is arranging our national championships in Tallinn, Estonia, since it's illegal to hold poker tournaments in non-casino clubs in Sweden, and all casinos are owned by the state. The Norwegians had the same problem - and found a very smart solution to it. One person went to the Casino Cosmopol in Gothenburg, Sweden, and bought all 400 seats to a €1,150 tournament. It is now officially regarded as the 2007 Norwegian Championships. That was very practical, and also clever from a political point of view. What players are saying is, "Look, you politicians, we may be poker players, but we're not dangerous. All we want is to be able to play our tournaments. If you won't get us casinos, we'll just have to play in Sweden, instead." spade

Ola Brandborn is a blogger and writer for