Apple Reinstates Gambling Applications on Its Swedish iTunes App Store
The Apple Corporation has reinstated gambling applications to its Swedish App Store. The decision comes two months after Apple removed the gaming apps after complaints from the Lotteriinspektionen, a national regulatory body for the Swedish government.
Another Sweden-based gaming organization, the Branschforeningen for Onlinespel (BOS), intervened on Apple’s behalf to have the gaming apps reinstated. Apple reversed its decision after Gustaf Hoffstedt, the secretary general of BOS, sent a letter to the American computer manufacturer saying that the gaming apps were not in violation of Swedish law. The March 2015 decision was made because Apple was convinced by the Lotteriinspektionen that the software applications violated Swedish and European Union law.
Troubles with the EU Courts
In fact, that was not the case. This is not the first time that Swedish authorities have clashed with EU officials in their interpretations of the national and international law. Sweden currently has a ban on certain foreign companies, while operating gaming regulation for Swedish companies.
That is a violation of international agreements, under European Union law. An EU court informed Sweden late last year of its violations, though the country seemed to have little interest in the EU position on the matter.
Apple Apps Store Case
Such considerations do not appear to be at work in the Apple iTunes apps store case, at least not at this time in the market’s development. Gustaf Hoffstedt cleared up any confusion on the matter by praising the industry and gave his definitive opinion on what has happened these past two months. In doing so, he described the apps store situation as “sad history”.
Statement by Gustaf Hoffstedt
The full statement by the Swedish gaming industry official reads, “It is with great satisfaction we can now put this sad history behind us. Sweden may not discriminate against foreign companies. It has been confirmed repeatedly by both Swedish law and European Union law.”
Hoffstedt referred to the situation in recent months where Sweden and the EU courts have postured over sovereignty issues and national fair trade. In doing so, he added, “Now we can focus on shaping future gaming regulations constructively. Together with parliament, the government and the gaming board, we want to promote a non-discriminatory licensing system that treats everyone equally.”
Perhaps this is a sign that Sweden is acting more fairly regarding non-Swedish companies in their country. While every country has a right to enact protectionist laws to help native companies, they should have to face the consequences of protectionist policies. In the past few years, Sweden’s leaders have enjoyed the benefits of the international market represented by the European Union, while trying to maintain barriers to competition.
When Sweden signed onto the EU agreement, it gave up the right to bar companies like Apple from uploading gaming apps in the Swedish version of the iTunes Store. In giving up those rights, it gained many advantages which help the Swedish people and Swedish corporations doing business in the European Common Market. It should have to uphold the full terms of that deal, in order to play its role in the international cooperative system.
Svenska Spel Controversy
Most of the controversy revolved around the state-owned gambling firm Svenska Spel, which has exclusive rights in the online gambling market in Sweden. Most other Europeans believe trade barriers erected by Sweden to protect Svenska Spel are a subversion of EU law and work against the spirit of international trade, as embodied in the agreements Sweden has signed.
European Gaming Laws
The gambling laws in Europe are as complicated as they are in the United States. If you compare the 28 sovereign nations which are members of the European Union to the 50 U.S. states, you might get an idea of the complexities of the legal situation. Each of those 28 countries has its own gaming laws, but those statutes must fit into the framework of the EU trade agreements.
When you consider that roughly 50 countries are found in Europe, that leaves nearly two dozen more nations which have their own esoteric laws when it comes to gambling. Countries like Russia, Ukraine, Norway, Switzerland, Serbia, and Iceland remain outside the EU. The Cupertino, California-based Apple Corporation is active in all these countries, so it has to stay abreast of these many online gaming laws when maintaining an iTunes store in these lands.
When one of these countries makes a complaint, it is often best to pull products from the storefront in order to be certain, as Apple did two months ago. This is better than sanctions or lawsuits from offended parties.
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