Saturday, February 09, 2008

Online Poker Crackdown in Sweden!

I have heard stories about Sweden's IRS, whatever it may be called, and apparently it is as big a pain in the ass as the good old American IRS. In any case, or I should say tax case, the Swedish tax authorities are going after what they call "poker tax cheats." Here's the story:

Sweden to Go After Online Poker Players, Affiliates

Sweden is cracking down on "tax cheats" and their primary focus will be online poker players, affiliates and operators, not to mention other online gambling related activities. Sweden is a hot bed in the online gambling industry, playing host to some of the leading software providers and poker networks including the national state owned Svenka Spel. And they are targeting individual online poker players in its tax probe.

Last summer, Sweden's tax board Skatteverket announced that it was going to start targeting online poker sites and affiliates for tax evasion. At the time, Dag Hardyson, national project leader for the tax board's Internet unit, said they weren't interested in going after poker players; only the companies that provided online poker services or those that made money by directing players to those sites would be targeted. But reports this week identified that poker players are among those now facing back taxes and penalties. Since launching their probe, Skatteverket has identified 47 cases of suspected tax evasion, representing €44.5 million in undeclared income, with €5 million purportedly attributed to individual poker players.

Meanwhile, The European Commission has launched investigations into both Swedish and German prohibitions on internet gambling. The Commission has requested further information from the countries over concerns that they restrict free trade.

The Commission has said that in Sweden's case it cannot allow betting in physical casinos or online in a state monopoly and at the same time bar foreign operators from offering online gambling.

"A Member State cannot invoke the need to restrict its citizens’ access to betting services if at the same time it incites and encourages them to participate in state lotteries, games of chance or betting which benefits the state’s finances," said a Commission statement.

The Commission is conducting an inquiry into whether Sweden's rules on poker games and tournaments are consistent with EU laws on free trade. The country has two months in which to respond to the request for information.

"[The request does not] have any implications for the liberalization of the market for gambling services generally, or for the entitlement of Member States to seek to protect the general interest, so long as this is done in a manner consistent with EU law i.e. that any measures are necessary, proportionate and non-discriminatory," said the Commission. "The Commission hopes that the answer it receives will lead to an early and satisfactory resolution of the matter."