Denmark, home to Carlsberg and its famous slogan, 'probably the best beer in the world', also lays claim to another, albeit equally subjective title, having been ranked as one of the happiest countries in the world by numerous surveys on the subject. This is thanks to other reasons than simply boasting Carlsberg amongst its exports – although another of its famous brands, Lego, is probably enough to bring even the most miserable of us at least a smidgen of child-like joy.
Genius inventions aside, the results can probably be explained by the minor fact that Denmark's population works short hours and still has amongst the highest average income in the world. Sounds like a winning formula if ever there was one, and the Danes don't spend all of their free time building Lego, either. It seems all that disposable income is contributing instead to a major surge in online gambling's popularity.
Up until January 1st 2012, state-owned Danske Spil was the only company afforded a betting licence, with a prohibition on Danish and overseas companies offering games and sports betting. However, pressure was on the Danish government to change this as the regulations clearly weren't working anyway, with over 400 sports betting websites taking wagers from Danes, and numerous websites even offering Danish language to make it easier for them to bet.
The new laws have entitled companies like Ladbrokes and bet365 to compete, although the State still holds sole rights to animal race betting and gambling based on pure luck. That basically means things like scratch cards and bingo where the player has no say in regards to strategy or skill and is reliant solely on chance.
Despite losing out on exclusive rights to gambling in Denmark, Danske Spil's profits have rocketed since the new legislation, and they are now split into two companies; Danske Lotteri Spil and Danske Licens Spil. The latter now covers the online gambling sector and recently recorded increased profits of more than 60% from the previous year.
Danes now have a variety of gambling opportunities at their fingertips and are permitted to play games like online poker with other players throughout the world. However, the Danish government is meticulous in their approach to advertising and enforces a strict process when handing out licences to companies based abroad.
Like most of Europe, the Danes love football and much of the sports betting wagers are placed on matches played by their domestic Superliga. The English Premier League is also extremely popular thanks to its huge presence on Danish satellite TV, which shows 280 of the 380 matches throughout the season.
Golf has also seen a recent surge in interest thanks largely to Thomas Bjørn's success on the Tour at the turn of the century, while Thorbjørn Olesen is a highly-rated young player who looks set to keep the fans engaged. Handball and badminton have achieved consistent success over the years, along with a recent history of top-level cyclists who have won Tour de France titles.
The Danes also have a massive appetite for poker, with the online form of the game growing immeasurably since Gus Hansen's near domination of the sport in the early 2000s. Denmark has an array of professional poker players and is ranked 25th in the WSOP World Rankings, while the Danish gambling community itself tends to stick with the tried-and-tested big poker sites, like Party Poker, which is particularly popular.
Gambling in Denmark has exploded into life since the advent of the new laws and last year's total gross gaming revenue hit over DKK4billion. That trend looks set to continue in 2013, as the gross gaming revenue grew by 30% in the first quarter. By the end of the year, experts are predicting Denmark's online gambling market to be worth almost double last year's figures.
The new laws haven't welcomed a free-for-all though, as the government is desperately attempting to prevent unlicensed foreign gambling sites from soliciting Danish customers. This led to 57 sites being blacklisted in 2012 alone.
After decades of monopolising gambling in Denmark, it's no surprise that Danske Spil still owns 62% of the market. Despite a year of freedom of choice, with so many Danes accustomed to using its familiar sportsbook it could be some time before a real dent is made by another company.
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