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BOS hits out again at deposit cap extension in consultation response

| By Daniel O'Boyle
Swedish operator association Branscheforenigen för Onlinespel (BOS) has again hit out at the proposed extension of online casino deposit controls, arguing that there was never justification to introduce the measure in the first place.

The measure was introduced on 2 July after being proposed in April as the country dealt with the novel coronavirus (Covid-19), with BOS heavily criticising the measure before and after its implementation. It offered further criticism of the measure when an extension to June 2021 was first proposed earlier this month.

Now, in its formal response to the consultation on the extension, BOS has called for the cap to be removed at the end of the year as initially planned.

“BOS advocates that the Covid-19 restriction not be extended, that future government decisions continue to be based on facts and that the government takes action to protect the Swedish licensed market,” it said.

The body said that “little has changed” since the regulations were first proposed, and that many of its complaints from the initial consultation were still valid.

It pointed to the work of Professor Per Carlbring, head of the clinical psychology department at the University of Sotckholm. Carlbring found that gambling activity was 13.3% below forecasts during the first phase of the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak, and that while online casino play increased slightly, “there was no increase in likely problematic, high-intensity gambling and neither did total online gambling increase”.

BOS added that there were two major consequences of the deposit cap, neither one being a decrease in problem play.

The first of these, it said, was an increase in the number of gambling accounts per player.

“We can see that high-volume players who play within the licensing system increased the number of accounts they hold with different gaming companies,” it explained. “When a high-volume player previously normally played at two to four licensed gaming companies, they now play with significantly more companies, in order to avoid the deposit limit of SEK5,000.

This, it said, “has an impact on gaming companies’ ability to offer strong consumer protection”.

“The duty of care is the cornerstone of consumer protection in the Swedish gaming regulation,” it continued. “This has now at least temporarily been put out of action by the government.”

The second major consequence was what it described as a “probable decrease” in the proportion of gamblers who play on licensed sites, though it noted that there has not yet been enough research into the area to prove that this has occurred.

BOS noted that a study by Copenhagen Economics estimated channelisation rates for Swedish online casino at 72-78%, and said at the very least it was unlikely they have improved under the measure.

Finally, the organisation added that it hoped the Swedish government would avoid putting further strict controls in place and would instead take action to boost channelisation rates.

“We propose that the government abstain from further repressive measures against gaming companies licensed in Sweden, at least until its channelisation rate has been restored to the level achieved in early 2019: just over 90%,” it said.

Regulator Spelinspektionen has already published its own response to the consultation, arguing an extension would be “reasonable” given that the effects that led to the cap’s implementation are still in place.

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