Denmark's crusade against illegal gambling

As part of its war on unscrupulous providers, gambling authority blocks 25 illegal mobile and desktop sites from operating in the country 

Gambling is one of the most popular pastimes in Europe, and it is also one of the most lucrative. Continental gambling revenues reached 22.4 billion euros last year, with that figure expected to grow by at least 5 percent in 2020.

Many European countries – particularly a post-Brexit Britain – are already looking towards gambling as a way to provide a much-needed stimulus to their economies. The financial rewards of a successful domestic gambling industry haven’t stopped one country from taking a firm stance when it comes to illegal and immoral gambling.

Denmark is one of the few countries in Europe adopting a forward-thinking approach to eradicating some of the more salubrious elements from their own gambling scene. Read on to find out how Mette Frederiksen’s government is whipping the Danish gambling industry into shape.

History of gambling in Denmark
Online gambling is becoming increasingly popular in Denmark, despite the market being tightly regulated until 2012.

It has six land-based casinos and, until the regulations were changed in 2012 under the Danish Gaming Act, one provider, Dankse Spil, controlled the online gambling market.

The market was opened up to overseas providers in 2013 and 50 licences were given to 40 operators, leading to an 8 percent increase in the country’s income raised from gambling. 

Blocking illegal gambling sites
As with the rest of the world, online gambling is a huge area of growth in Denmark. Online growth has risen at an exponential rate in recent years, prompting gambling experts to predict a majority shift from land-based gambling to its virtual counterpart in the coming years.

Critics of online gambling have always claimed that the internet could provide loopholes for unscrupulous providers, leading to increases in crime as regulation struggles to keep up with technological advances.

The Danish authorities have put that claim to bed though, as they recently took the move to block 25 sites that they deemed to be illegal. The vast majority of sites were blocked for not holding the relevant gambling licences, although some were put in lockdown for specific breaches of the law.

Whilst 25 may seem like a high number of websites to block, it’s important to remember that there are hundreds upon hundreds of legitimate online casinos operating in Denmark.

Playing at successful, well-known and legitimate online casinos has so many benefits, including high speed games, top quality graphics and a huge range of different types of games to choose from.

Legitimate gambling sites adhere strictly to the country’s gambling laws in regards to customer welfare and support – as you’ll see when checking out this highly regarded Danish online casino.

What makes a website illegal?

The Danish Gambling Authority recently blocked 25 illegal mobile and desktop gambling sites from operating in the country, continuing its war on unscrupulous providers.

The most common reason for gambling websites being blocked in Denmark was either the lack of a gambling licence or an incorrect licence for the activities or games offered to customers.

Like most other major European countries, Denmark has its own gambling authority, called the Spillemyndigheden, which is responsible for regulating the industry and, importantly, issuing or renewing gambling licences. 

Operating without a licence is an offence as it means the company is effectively running with free rein, under no obligation to adhere to Denmark’s gambling laws. That presents problems in terms of customer support and welfare, but also in regards to safer gambling and age limits.

Furthermore, gambling companies that operate in Denmark without a licence are often based overseas and do not apply for a licence in order to avoid paying taxes towards the Danish economy.

Over half of the sites blocked by the government this year had their ISPs withdrawn because of this very reason. In a statement to the press, Birgitte Sand, the head of Spillemyndigheden, said: “We use our authority to block websites on an ongoing basis. We do this to protect the gaming providers who are authorised to offer games in Denmark, but also to protect the players.

Licence-less sites were not the only targets of the recent government crackdown, as a number of ‘skin sites’ also had their ISPs withdrawn.

What is a skin site?

Skin sites are the perfect example of how technology is adapting and morphing to outwit authorities and contravene gambling laws. These type of sites allow players to use cosmetic video games items – commonly skins (outfits) – to bet on the outcomes of professional video game clashes.

In basic terms, they are gambling sites in all but name. The fact that skin sites accept wagers in the form of video game skins makes them no different from traditional online gambling sites.

Skins, or other cosmetic items, can usually be bought in bundles on gaming sites, thus attributing a monetary value to them. Skin sites will resell these items or trade them to make financial gains on the back of their customers’ losses.

What makes skin sites so pernicious is the fact that they prey upon a younger demographic of users: typically people well beneath the legal age of gambling. Furthermore, skin sites do not operate to the same standards of gambling websites, often providing little to no support to consumers.

Thankfully, the Danish Gambling Authority was one of the first in the world to react to this new threat and has blocked well over 100 sites in the past two years.

Money laundering

The final threat to gambling that we will discuss in this article is the traditional sceptre of criminal money laundering. Ever since the invention of the printing press, writers and journalists have warned the public of gambling’s susceptibility to money laundering and criminal entities.

Big casino wins have often provided gangsters and criminals with a legitimate way to explain their ill-gotten gains. Traditionally, this was hard to police as casino staff were more susceptible to bribes and intimidation.

When online gambling was first released to the public, criminals believed it would provide a faceless way to launder their money. Despite that prediction ringing true for the first decade of online gambling, the industry is now well-placed to spot and, most importantly, stop money laundering.

As in other European countries, part of Denmark’s responsible gambling licensing obligations requires companies to use software designed to detect money laundering whilst also employing physical staff to oversee the use of the technology and manually assist.

To bring this article full circle, that is one of the reasons why the Danish Gambling Authority has taken such decisive action in blocking sites operating in the country without a valid licence – a move that further reinforces the perception of Denmark as a responsible gambling country.