Svenska Spel has lost its appeal against Aktienbolaget Trav och Galopp (ATG) over the use of the expression “Trav och Galopp” in a new racing product.

Svenska Spel’s use of the expression, which means “trot and gallop” in English, was deemed by the Patent and Market Appeal Court to be an infringement of ATG’s corporate name.

ATG initiated the first trademark lawsuit in December 2020. This happened after a war of words between ATG boss Hasse Lord Skarplöth and his counterpart at Svenska Spel, Patrik Hofbauer.

In a statement announcing the ATG’s court victory, Skarplöth said: “It was to be expected that the Supreme Court also followed our line. It should never be okay to use someone else’s business name and it feels good that the matter has now been finally resolved.

“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 follows Svenska Spel’s announcement that it would close Casino Cosmopol’s venues in Gothenburg and Malmö to “limit losses”.

The online casino has taken a toll on Casino Cosmopol’s visitor numbers in recent years, with the closures potentially impacting around 200 jobs. As a result of the liquidations, Casino Cosmopol in Stockholm is now the only remaining land-based casino in Sweden.

Casino Cosmopol was previously fined SEK 2 million (£154,000/€180,000/$200,000) in December for anti-money laundering failures. Svenska Spel was also warned.

The signs for Casino Cosmopol were fairly clear in October. Svenska Spel’s Q3 report showed a stall in retail earnings and revenue due to market-wide pressure on the sector.

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

ATG shines in Sweden

While Svenska Spel is floundering, ATG appears to be thriving in the Swedish market. In a very successful three-month period ending September 30, 2023, ATG recorded a double-digit increase in operating profit.

Net gaming revenue increased 4.5% to SEK 1.35 billion, compared to SEK 1.29 billion last year. This was the second-highest third quarter figure in ATG’s history, despite the Swedish market faltering in the first half of the year.

Meanwhile, ATG’s total revenue for the three-month period was SEK 1.53 billion, up 3.0% year-on-year. The group achieved an operating profit of SEK 497 million, an increase of 13.7% compared to the previous year.

Possible tax problem on the horizon

In September, the Swedish government (Regeringen) announced plans to increase the gambling tax rate from 18% to 22% of gross gambling turnover (GGR). If the proposals are accepted, the tax increase in Sweden will come into force from July 1, 2024.

Regeringen stated that the move could generate additional tax revenue of SEK 540 million per year. However, as expected, the proposals met with strong opposition from industry.

In fact, ATG is at the forefront of this opposition. Skarplöth called on the government earlier this week to reconsider its proposals.

Skarplöth wants differentiated taxation across all gambling sectors, with the tax rate for sports betting remaining at 18% while the tax rate for iGaming is increased.

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

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

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