Sweden’s gambling legislation has seen the European Commission refer the country to the European Court of Justice for persistent failure to comply with EU law.

In a statement Thursday the European Gaming and Betting Association (EGBA) described the referrals as “a breakthrough decision”, marking the first time that the EC has taken a member state to court over its gambling legislation.

The EC has taken two separate decisions to refer Sweden to the Court of Justice in relation to Swedish gambling legislation. The first is in response to a November 2013 notice from the EC to Sweden, requesting it to ensure that its gambling laws complied with EU law. The EC said today that it “does not consider the Swedish reactions to these requests as satisfactory”.

It has therefore referred Sweden to the ECJ for “imposing restrictions on the organisation and promotion of online betting services in a way which is inconsistent with EU law”.

The Commission said that it considers Sweden’s sports betting monopoly to be inconsistent with the stated policy objectives of preventing problem gambling and criminal activities, adding that it lacks the necessary state control.

The second referral is based on Svenska Spel’s online poker monopoly, which the Commission believes to be subject to inadequate control by the Swedish authorities. It is also of the opinion that the monopoly is not consistent as the Swedish authorities tolerate the unauthorised offer and promotion of poker games.

EGBA secretary general Maarten Haijer commented: “EGBA fully supports and commends the EC for taking this decision. This is a breakthrough that shows a strong commitment to upholding fundamental European freedoms. Sweden was given many years to bring its legislation into conformity but regretfully there was little commitment to change.”

Haijer added that he fully expects other member states to soon be referred to the ECJ, citing the long list of pending cases that are ready to be taken to court.

“No Member State regardless of its size should be exempt from scrutiny,” he added. “However, EGBA stands ready to support any member state that now decides to reform their legislation to ensure compliance with EU rules.”

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