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BOS backs offshore crackdown, but warns new rules will “not be enough”

| By Marese O'Hagan
Swedish online gambling association Branschföreningen för Onlinespel (BOS) has expressed support for proposals that would allow authorities to crack down on offshore operators – but warned the new rules alone will “not be enough” to ensure strong channelisation.
Zimpler Sweden

Measures to deal with unlicensed gambling – as well as match-fixing – were first laid out in a report by the director-general of the Swedish Chamber of Commerce, Gunnar Larsson, and the Ministry of Finance, which was published in October.

If implemented, the findings of the report would mean that all gambling available to players in Sweden would be subject to the country’s Gambling Act, meaning authorities could take action against any operator that does not block Swedish customers.

Currently, the Act states that online gambling that does not target Swedish audiences is not considered to be offered in Sweden.

Gustaf Hoffstedt, secretary-general of BOS, emphasised the need for “repressive measures” against unlicensed gambling in the country. However, he said there was also need for operators to receive the right support to “attract” customers to bet with licensed operators and that a good system should involve both.

Hoffstedt noted that the introduction of the new measures was definitely an improvement from the current status quo.

“As far as we know, not a single unlicensed gaming company with its representatives has been the subject of any court proceedings in Sweden,” he said.

“No house searches have taken place. And the established penalty scales for unlicensed gambling have not been used once.”

However, he said that instead of strong “attractive” measures, the country has made it difficult for licensed operators with factors such as an online casino deposit cap, implemented as part of a number of temporary pandemic measures.

“[The support was] there when the licensing system was introduced, but has time and time again been torn apart by the government and its authorities,” he stated.

“Examples of such destruction are the recurring pandemic restrictions and the reduction of the types of sports betting that are permitted for licensed companies.”

Sweden implemented a controversial deposit cap of SEK5,000 (£408/€489/$560) in June 2020, during the first novel coronavirus (Covid-19) lockdown. This was expected to last until the end of 2020. However, it was extended to 14 November 2021, having previously been extended to May 2021.

Last week, the government of Sweden moved to reintroduce the deposit cap, with a slightly lower limit of SEK4,000. This is set to take effect in February.

Hoffstedt added, “This has created increased incentives for consumers to leave the Swedish licensed market in favour of the unlicensed, which has no deposit limits and offers more bonus programmes.”

Hoffstedt further asserted the need for this support in promoting the country’s gambling market.

“Sweden will never be able to bring back the market shares that have been lost to the illegal gaming market unless something is also done about the conditions for the law-abiding licensed gambling companies.

“BOS supports the proposals in the investigation, but at the same time points out that they will not be enough to achieve the set goals.”

The BOS response also focused on match-fixing and how the option to allow sports institutions to impose bet prohibitions on individual matches would be more effective than division- or sport-wide betting bans in the fight against unlicensed gambling.

“Such general prohibition provisions in practice hand over the betting market to unlicensed players whenever there is a demand for such betting,” added Hoffstedt.

Last week, Sweden’s gaming regulator Spelinspektionen expressed its support of the proposals, stating that it felt “generally positive” towards them.

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