In Sweden, the taxman commeth to your LAN party
Sweden’s government is set to strike a painful blow to gamers with the creation of a new LAN party tax.
In tax-friendly Sweden the government doesn’t differentiate between a slot machine and a PC at a LAN party, applying a gaming (read: gambling) tax to both according to a report in Swedish media.
As Fria Tider reports, the Swedish Gambling Board has decided to tax LAN parties up to $5,000 to receive a permit to operate. Small LAN gatherings between 1 to 10 computers will be taxed $400, 11-25 computer events will be taxed $1,500, while larger events with 26 or more computers will be taxed $5,000.
A representative from the Swedish Gambling board is quoted as saying, “In the eyes of the law, there are slot machines. There is no difference.”
Reportedly, these new laws don’t apply to Internet cafes because computers are on the property for purposes other than gaming.
Sweden is home to the world’s largest LAN party, Dreamhack, which will most certainly be impacted by the decision. The report from Fria Tider quoted Erik de Basso, accounting manager of Sweden’s Inferno Online LAN event, who said that he is “pissed” by the decision and said that it would cost his organization thousands.
It is quite curious as to why Sweden is choosing to tax LAN parties in the same manner as slot machines. It may very well be sheer ignorance, or it could be something deeper. Gambling is taxed as a way to compensate the government for repairing the societal ills it causes. You don’t have to be an anti-gambling zealot to see the mountain of evidence that points towards gambling, particularly video lottery terminals, as having an impact on labor productivity, substance abuse and personal indebtedness. Perhaps in the mind of Sweden’s political-class, legions of youth playing PC games have an equally negative impact. The same knee-jerk ‘all video games are bad for youth’ thinking that went in vogue after Columbine might still resonate in the halls of power in Sweden.
Or, quite simply, it could be a country bankrupt from years of heavy social welfare spending looking for another tax grab. Either way, gamers are getting a bad deal in the country and unless a PC-gaming lobby forms it’s likely to stay that way.