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Svenska Spel loses appeal against ATG over naming rights

| By Kyle Goldsmith
Svenska Spel has lost its appeal against Aktiebolaget Trav och Galopp (ATG) over the use of the phrase “Trav och Galopp” in a new racing product.
Svenska Spel ATG

Svenska Spel’s use of the phrase, which translates to “trot and gallop” in English, was considered by the Patent and Market Court of Appeal to be an infringement on ATG’s company name.

ATG launched the initial trademark lawsuit back in December 2020. This was after a war of words between ATG chief executive Hasse Lord Skarplöth and his Svenska Spel counterpart, Patrik Hofbauer.

In a statement announcing ATG’s court victory, Skarplöth said: “That the supreme court also followed our line was expected. It must never be okay to use someone else’s company name and it feels good that the matter is now settled once and for all.

“It was important to establish that a competitor does not have the right to use our company name and exploit its good reputation.”

Another blow for Svenska Spel

The failed appeal comes in the wake of Svenska Spel announcing its intention to close its Casino Cosmopol venues in Gothenburg and Malmö in order to “limit losses”.

Online casino has heavily affected Casino Cosmopol’s visitor numbers in recent years, with the closures potentially impacting around 200 jobs. The liquidations mean the Casino Cosmopol in Stockholm is now the only land-based casino remaining in Sweden.

Casino Cosmopol had already been fined in December, receiving a SEK2m (£154,000/€180,000/$200,000) penalty for anti-money laundering failings. Svenska Spel was also warned.

The writing was somewhat on the wall for Casino Cosmopol in October. Svenska Spel’s Q3 report revealed a stall in retail earnings and revenue due to market-wide pressures on the sector.

In response, Svenska Spel adapted business practices at Casino Cosmopol, but ultimately it was unable to prevent the closures.

ATG shining in Sweden

While Svenska Spel is faltering, ATG seems to be flourishing in the Swedish market. A very successful three-month period up to 30 September 2023 saw ATG record a double-digit rise in operating profit.

Net gaming revenue increased 4.5% to SEK1.35bn, from SEK1.29bn last year. That was the second highest figure for a third quarter in ATG’s history, happening in spite of the Swedish market stalling in H1.

Meanwhile, ATG’s total revenue for the three-month period was at SEK1.53bn, up 3.0% year-on-year. The group made an operating profit of SEK497m, up 13.7% year-on-year.

Potential tax issue on the horizon

In September, Sweden’s government (Regeringen) announced plans to increase the gambling tax rate from 18% to 22% of gross gaming revenue (GGR). If the proposals are approved, the tax hike will come into effect in Sweden from 1 July 2024.

Regeringen stated the move could accumulate an extra SEK540m in additional tax revenue per year. Predictably though, the proposals have been met with fierce industry opposition.

Indeed, ATG is at the forefront of that opposition. Skarplöth called for the government to rethink its proposals earlier this week.

Skarplöth wants differentiated tax across the gambling sectors, with sports betting remaining at 18%, while igaming’s tax rate is increased.

“It came as a shock, the proposal for a higher excise tax on gambling companies,” Skarplöth said. “Shortly afterwards, the will to fight awoke.

“Strengthened by our research, we have now put quite a lot of energy into demonstrating the advantages of a differentiated gaming tax in Sweden as well. The hope is now that our analysis will move legislators from insight to action.

“It is a good starting point for our proposal; keep the tax on horse betting and sports, but raise it on online casinos.”

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