Regulation

Industry lines up in opposition to Swedish casino controls

4 minutes read
The Swedish government’s consultation on a proposal to extend a series of restrictions for online casino into 2021 has provoked yet more industry calls for ministers to scrap the plans.
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The general consensus, from responses gathered by operator association Branscheforenigen för Onlinespel (BOS), was that the SEK5,000 (£438.55/€491.94/$585.71) deposit cap for online casino in place since 2 July has prompted gamblers to spread their play across multiple operators. 

Minister for Social Security Ardalan Shekarabi announced earlier this month that the government aimed to keep the deposit cap, an SEK100 limit on bonuses and mandatory session time limits in place until June next year.

The country’s gambling regulator Spelinspektionen has already pointed out that it is impossible to enforce the cap across all licensees, meaning when a player hits the SEK5,000 limit at one provider, they can shift to another brand.

This, Hero Gaming pointed out, meant that operators no longer had as clear a view of player activity as they did before the cap was enforced. 

“[We] would like to emphasise in particular that the measures impair player protection efforts, as it leads to players registering with more licensees, or playing outside the licence system, and not being caught by operators’ safety nets.”

“The result of continued restrictions that mean that licensees no longer have the opportunity to track game patterns, [which achieves] exactly the opposite of helping players.”

Videoslots, meanwhile, argued that the duty of care included in the Swedish Gambling Act when it was passed by parliament meant that the industry was already required to ensure players were protected from harm. 

By introducing the cap, the processes developed to fulfil this duty of care were being “severely hampered” by players spreading their deposits across a larger number of licensees. 

“The government’s blunt ax is now reducing the effect of the surgical approach chosen by the Riksdag,” it said.

William Hill made the same point while also emphasising the impact spending limits were having on channelling efforts. It said that before the SEK5,000 cap was enforced, licensed online casino providers only captured between 72% and 78% of all players, according to Copenhagen Economics.

“It should be obvious,” William Hill said, that the degree of channelling would since worsened. 

LeoVegas, meanwhile, suggested the government turn its attention from restricting the legal market, to targeting offshore operators. It recommends Spelinspektionen immediately begin issuing warnings to unlicensed businesses and initiating payment blocking efforts, supported by a disclosure obligation to ensure banks cooperate. 

It said the Swedish Gambling Act should then be amended to introduce licensing for platform providers, games developers, affiliates and payment intermediaries. 

The government, LeoVegas continued, should go further, and explore the possibility of IP blocking, and work with the Swedish tax authorities to prioritise cases where players have won significant sums with offshore operators. 

The provision restricting licensees to offering a single bonus upon sign-up should also be removed, it continued, to help the regulated market attract players away from these illegal businesses. 

Bonusing, which is restricted to SEK100 under the temporary controls, was also highlighted as a key sticking point by sports betting affiliate Bettamore. Its founder Oskar Lejonberg said that this cap had reduced his monthly turnover from SEK500,000 to zero. 

While the business had been able to survive the autumn, an extension to the controls would force him to shut it down, he said. 

The restriction on bonusing made no sense, Lejonberg pointed out, as it was limited to new players upon sign-up, meaning that the cap would not actually have any impact on problem gamblers. 

Furthermore, he added, the SEK5,000 deposit cap would have little effect – even if it did not affect his business directly – as it was too high. With around 20 companies listed on his site, Lejonberg said that addicts could easily lose SEK100,000 a week by shifting activity from operator to operator. 

The latest responses continue an overwhelmingly negative reaction from the industry to the extension. Kindred Group argued that it totally contradicted the goals of the Gambling Act, and would only serve to benefit the offshore market.

BOS, meanwhile, pointed out that there had been no change in circumstances to justify the extension, also suggesting that problem gamblers may shift most if not all activity to unlicensed sites.

Speinspektionen, on the other hand, has come out in favour of the proposal. It argued the opposite of BOS – that the circumstances that necessitated the restrictions in the first place were still in place – and concluded that keeping the measures in place to June 2021 was justified.