Govt report empowers Swedish regulator to crack down on offshore market

| By Daniel O'Boyle
A new report from the Swedish government report could give the authorities the power to block all unlicensed forms of gambling from the market, regardless of whether operators were targeting Swedish players.

Under the report – from Gunnar Larsson, director general of the Swedish Chamber of Commerce, alongside the Ministry of Finance – all gambling accessible to customers in Sweden would be considered to be under the scope of the Gambling Act.

This would be a major change from it current scope. It states that “online gambling […] is not directed at the Swedish market shall not be considered to be provided in Sweden”. This means that businesses not targeting local customers – but not blocking them from playing – could be targeted.

It follows the Netherlands’ Minister for Consumer Protection Sander Dekker announcing a similar change just before the country’s online gambling market opened. This resulted in a number of operators such as Entain, Kindred, 888  Betsson, LeoVegas and Casumo all blocking Dutch customers.

The Swedish report also proposed a change to how payment blocking for unlicensed operators is conducted. Under the new rules, the provision of the Gaming Act dealing with payment blocking would be repealed. Instead, payment blocking may be conducted through the Främjandeförbudet (promotion ban), which bans unlicensed gambling operators from promoting their services in Sweden.

Regulator Spelinspektionen will inform payment providers of any operators to which payments should be blocked.

In addition, Spelinspektionen may undertake “test purchases”, allowing it to see if certain gambling sites are available to Swedish players.

“When it comes to the measures against unlicensed gambling, we are positive,” Patrik Hofbauer, chief executive of lottery and igaming operator Svenska Spel, said. “This provides an opportunity for increased channeling in the Swedish gaming market, as unlicensed operations will be shut down.”

Acting BOS director general Ann-Sofie Olsson said effective enforcement of laws against unlicensed gambling were necessary for Sweden’s regulated market to be a success.

“We welcome tougher actions against unlicensed companies, it is about players’ safety,” she said, “That was the reason why a new licensing system was introduced. If the system is slowly eroded, we are all losers, but mostly the Swedish players.”

The report also proposed a number of changes to math-fixing rules. Under the suggested rules, all licensees must submit information about suspected match-fixing to Spelinspektionen, which must then forward this information to licensees and relevant sports federations.

Licensees must also check whether any sportspeople have placed bets in violation of match-fixing rules.

Requirements would also be drawn up for international information-sharing with regard to match-fixing.

“Regarding the proposals to prevent match-fixing, we completely agree with the investigator that stronger muscles are needed to counteract cheating at the sports arenas,” Olsson said. “A lot is already being done, but we are in every way open to contribute our knowledge and measures for fair play. Now it remains to see whether these proposals will have the effect we all want.”

Hofbauer said he was very pleased to see these new measures included, noting that Svenska Spel had previously pushed for these rules.

“Our first impression of the measures proposed against match-fixing is very positive,” he said. “The investigation contains many of the measures we wanted, especially with regard to the introduction of a system for sharing information about suspected match-fixing.

“Now it is important that the measures are implemented and become a reality for them to have an effect.”

Spelinspektionen director general Camilla Rosenberg said the new measures would help it more effectively tackle unlicensed gambling and match fixing.

“We view positively the proposals that strengthen our opportunities to work more effectively against unlicensed play and match-fixing,” Rosenberg said. “We look forward to being able to collaborate more with other players to better achieve the goals of the gaming market reform.”

In addition to the report, Spelinspektionen also published an updated version of its own strategy on illegal gambling.
This strategy clarifies that, currently, “a prerequisite for online gambling without a Swedish license to be considered illegal in Sweden is targeting the Swedish market”.

It goes on to outline that targeting the Swedish market includes offering prices in Swedish Krone, using a dot.se domain, terms and conditions referring to Swedish customers, a Swedish phone number for customer service, or marketing – including affiliate marketing – in Swedish.

Any site that blocks Swedish customers cannot be considered to be targeting Sweden.

The new strategy document also noted that while Spelinspektionen already collaborates with police to tackle illegal gambling, it should also increase its work with the Swedish Consumer Agency, Finansinspektionen, the Swedish Tax Agency and the Swedish Enforcement Agency.

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