Poker is extremely popular in Scandinavian country Sweden. Some of the world’s toughest players hail from that part of the globe.
Until recently, the online poker scene in Sweden was far more restrictive than one might imagine. However, things are quite different in 2019, and here are some of the better online poker options in the country.
Where can I play poker online in Sweden?
If you bought into the aggressive marketing strategies previously employed by Svenska Spel telling you it is the safer and more reliable online poker option, you can continue to play there exclusively.
After all, the Boss Media software is serviceable. Plus, there is at least some traffic, although it amounts to only about seven percent of the traffic on PokerStars’ global site.
However, there really is no truth to those safety and reliability claims, and Svenska Spel is far from the only legal and government-sanctioned online poker option in Sweden now.
In fact, the global online poker market leaders are all in officially in Sweden now and operating above board. Plus, these sites offer access to their international player pools, where bigger prize pools and increased cash game options abound.
PokerStars is the largest online poker site in the world, accounting for over half of the combined traffic on all West-facing sites. The site offers excellent welcome bonuses and recurring promotions, as well as a unique sense of community for its users. All in all, PokerStars offers a complete package rarely matched by its competition.
This platform gives access to an impressive selection of cash game tables, multi-table tournaments, and S&Gs. Tournament prize pools are among the best in the world, and the poker room’s large player pool means you’ll never have to wait too long for a game to get going.
That claim holds true for low, mid, and high-stakes Hold’em cash games, as well as Omaha and even Stud. PokerStars adds new SNGs and MTTs constantly.
Additionally, site management is constantly innovating, and often offers new types of cash games and tournaments.
Swedish gambling regulator Lotteriinspektionen handed PokerStars’ parent company The Stars Group a license in December 2018. The company launched online poker, sports betting, and casino products under various Stars Group brands in the newly regulated Swedish market in January 2019.
Swedish players now have full access to PokerStars’ global online poker player pools.
888 is the second-largest Europe-friendly poker network in the world. Traffic numbers aren’t that impressive, but its cash games are notorious for being exceptionally soft – particularly at low and micro stakes.
Many consider this site to be all about No-Limit Hold’em. But if Omaha interests you, the action picks up during peak traffic hours.
S&Gs are available, but high buy-in tournaments can take a while to start. 888 also wields a fairly solid MTT lineup, but its guaranteed prize pools are significantly lower than on Stars.
In late December 2018, Lotteriinspektionen handed 888 Holdings offshoot 888 Sweden Limited a license to operate online poker, casino games, and sports betting. The domains 888.se, 888casino.se, 888poker.se, and 888sport.se all started offering various online gaming products in 2019.
partypoker used to be the largest card room in the industry. However, its popularity took a major hit when the site became a hunting ground for hardcore cash game grinders attracted by partypoker’s amazing rakeback offer.
The site’s owners responded by scrapping the offending program. Instead, they focused their attention on recreational players.
In 2018, partypoker seems to be in a good spot. Traffic is steady, and the tournament lineup looks as solid as ever.
Cash games on this network are pretty much all about Hold’em. While Stud and Omaha are also represented, getting any action outside of heads-up play is very unlikely, especially if you aren’t interested in low and micro-stakes play. partypoker also boasts a rather impressive lineup of multi-table tournaments and S&Gs.
Parent company GVC Holdings announced it had received a Swedish gaming license in December 2018. It launched its two most popular brands – bwin and partypoker – in the Swedish market in 2019.
Both brands now offer websites under the .se extension. The partypoker.se site is a localized adaptation of the poker brand offering access to partypoker’s huge pool of players.
Finally, iPoker is a multi-site network that focuses on traditional poker variants and low-stakes play. While iPoker isn’t a massive network, the traffic it gets is more than enough to keep low-stakes cash games and low buy-in multi-table tournaments running on a daily basis.
Unfortunately, the STT experience is somewhat underwhelming these days. However, the fast-fold tables are surprisingly smooth for a poker platform of this size.
Swedish gambling company Kindred Group, which owns and operates the Unibet poker site on the iPoker Network, announced it had received a Swedish gambling license in November 2018. Alongside the Unibet.se online poker, bingo, and sports betting site, Kindred launched all five of its online gambling brands in the new licensed market in January 2019.
Where can I play poker live in Sweden?
Despite the fact that online poker is immensely popular in Sweden, the number of land-based poker rooms is actually very low. Here’s a complete list of those venues:
- Casino Cosmopol Malmo Poker Room (Slottsgatan 33, 211 33 Malmö)
- Baltic Princess Cruise Ship Poker Room (Stockholm, Sweden)
- Casino Cosmopol Stockholm Poker Room (Kungsgatan 65, 111 22 Stockholm)
- Casino Cosmopol Sundsvall Poker Room (Casinoparken 1, 852 29 Sundsvall)
- Klubb Oden (Odengatan 72, 113 22 Stockholm)
- Casino Cosmopol Goteborg Poker Room (Packhusplatsen 7, 411 13 Göteborg)
The minimum legal age for participating in both live and online poker games in Sweden is 18.
A brief history of Sweden and online poker
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For many years, the Swedish government exercised state control on all forms of online gambling, including online poker. State-owned poker operator Svenska Spel was the only truly legal and government-sanctioned online poker operator in the country.
This situation drew criticism from other members of the European Union. The controversy finally boiled over in 2014 when the EU Commission took the Swedish government to court over the issue.
At the center of the complaint was the Treaty for European Union. This law essentially mandated that EU members provide a common market for goods and services.
Since online poker was legal in other EU member states, companies from other EU states had to be allowed to enter the market under the same conditions as a national company. To put it another way, EU residents were allowed to choose from different service providers in any market, regardless of which EU member state they live in or where the different companies come from.
Simply put, state-enforced monopolies were, and are, against the law.
The end of the monopoly
The Swedish government’s response was to ask for more time to deal with the issue. It began a research project to study how it could proceed.
Nearly five years passed. Finally, in June 2018, the country bowed to the pressure and changed its online poker laws. New laws liberalized the online gambling market and invited operators from across the EU to apply for a license to legally operate in Sweden.
The application process opened Aug. 1, 2018. The government invited approved operators to officially launch Swedish operations on Jan. 1, 2019.
Of course, the EU’s largest online poker operators, including PokerStars, PartyPoker, 888, and Unibet have all been ignoring Swedish gambling laws for years, anyway. These operators have felt free to accept players from inside Sweden because the EU has ruled Swedish law invalid and is actively enforcing that position.
From an online poker player perspective, not much changes, as the new law does not segregate Swedish online poker players from the international player pool. Foreign online poker operators are launching .se domains, but players on these sites maintain access to the operator’s global player pool.
It’s a new world for online poker in Sweden
Nevertheless, foreign online gambling operators were free to apply for a license that allows them to legally operate in Sweden. The only caveat was that they must be willing to pay an 18 percent tax on gross gaming revenue.
Dozens of online gambling operators applied for licenses ahead of the Jan. 1, 2019 launch date. Accordingly, since the beginning of 2019, dozens of new online gambling sites have launched in Sweden.
As a result, Svenska Spel’s state monopoly over online gambling has officially ended. However, even Svenska Spel CEO Lennart Käll called the changes an improvement:
“This is a reform that creates order and reforms a market which, as mentioned before, was the wild west! Now we can look forward to a gaming market with equal conditions for gaming companies, increased revenue to the treasury, clear rules to protect customers from excessive gaming and opportunities to put match fixers behind lock and bar, and above all much stronger and better consumer protection.”
EU Tax Law
General lottery rules apply to play on an online poker site hosted in an EU member state. So, poker players in Sweden do not pay taxes on winnings.
However, players must pay a 30 percent income tax on winnings accrued on sites hosted outside the EU. So, the hosting or home location of popular online gambling companies can have significant tax implications.
For instance, companies with home locations in Alderney or the Isle of Man, like PokerStars, do not qualify under EU tax law. On the other hand, companies located in Gibraltar or Malta are recognized as EU members, and EU players do not have to pay taxes.