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Swedish govt aims to retain online casino controls until 2021

| By Robin Harrison
Sweden’s government has launched a consultation on extending the temporary controls for online casino, including a SEK5,000 (£439.2/€490.0/$580.3) weekly deposit limit, until June 2021.
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The government’s memorandum proposes extending the controls in order to better protect players during the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, amid rising case numbers in the country. 

“We see that the development of Covid-19 is going in the wrong direction in several parts of the country,” Minister for social security Ardalan Shekarabi said. “The situation is very serious. 

“In the wake of the pandemic, we see continued risks in the field of gambling, which means that we need to act to reduce the risks for vulnerable consumers.”

This has already seen the temporary controls imposed from 2 July until the end of the year, including the widely criticised SEK5,000 limit for online casino, and a corresponding loss limit for land-based slots. 

Players are also required to set limits on playing time when playing online casino games or slot machines, while bonuses for the vertical is limited to SEK100. 

The measures have been strongly criticised by the industry since they were first proposed in April this year, and were originally supposed to cover all products. 

However, an initial consultation prompted widespread criticism, including concerns from former horse racing monopoly AB Trav och Galopp (ATG) on the impact on their operations. Shekarabi then opted to amend the plans to only impose the limits for online casino and land-based slots.

Even gambling regulator Spelinspektionen has spoken out against the controls, suggesting it was impossible to enforce across all operators. 

Operator association Branscheforenigen för Onlinespel (BOS), meanwhile, has claimed the measures have created “chaos” with no business sure of how to enforce the limits.

BOS has also warned that by making legal products less attractive to players, the government is creating scope for significant growth in offshore gambling, and therefore potentially putting players at greater risk of harm.

In its consultation, the government looks to highlight similar measures by other jurisdictions, pointing to Spain’s temporary advertising restrictions at the height of lockdown, Latvia’s temporary ban on all forms of gambling and Belgium’s €500 weekly deposit cap. However, the Belgian limits were already planned regardless of Covid-19. 

Stakeholders have until 23 November to share their thoughts on the extension. 

The effects of the SEK5,000 cap have been apparent in recent results from operators with a major presence in Sweden, with ATG’s casino revenue dropping to SEK58m in Q3 as a result. 

LeoVegas, meanwhile, saw Nordic revenue fall 20.0% in the third quarter of the year. Chief executive Gustaf Hagman warned that this had led to a “troubling development”, with the offshore market growing unhindered.

“A growing number of operators without licences are actively targeting Swedish players, including those who have been barred by the self-exclusion tool Spelpaus,” he said last week.

Svenska Spel’s research day in October also revealed that there had been no notable increase in problem gambling in the first wave of Covid-19. However, it noted that while overall gambling spend actually fell, problem gambling rates had remained level.

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