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Swedish government scraps plans for offshore crackdown

| By Daniel O'Boyle
Sweden’s government will not go through with a plan to give authorities the power to block all unlicensed forms of gambling from the market, regardless of whether operators targeted Swedish players.

The government revealed it would not go ahead with the plan when it submitted a new law on match-fixing and unlicensed gambling to the country’s Legal Council (Lagrådet).

The law followed on from a 2021 report from the Ministry of Finance and Chamber of Commerce director general Gunnar Larsson, also on the subject of match-fixing and unlicensed gambling.

Under the current system, regulator Spelinspektionen has authority over any gambling targeted at the Swedish market – such as through marketing or local payment options – and may take action against operators doing so without a licence.

However, the report recommended the scope of the act be changed to include all gambling available to Swedish players.

As a result, operators passively taking Swedish customers without holding a local licence may have been subject to regulatory action.

When the proposals were put forward for consultation, the government noted that the majority of respondents either approved of or were neutral to the approach. Regulator Spelinspektionen noted that a change would reduce the need for interpretation of what it means to target Sweden.

On the other hand, the state treasury said it was “not reasonable” to make the change, as it would force businesses that have no interaction with Sweden to take action to avoid taking Swedish customers. 

Meanwhile, the Administrative Court in Linköping argued that it was not clear if the Swedish government had the power to make such a change. The Public Prosecutor’s Office said the rules would be “very difficult to investigate and prosecute”.

The government, as a result, decided not to implement the change. It said that its reason was that “there was a risk that the focus would be on whether players are resident or permanently resident in Sweden, instead of on whether the games are adapted for the Swedish market”.

However, the government did say that “there are still strong reasons for allowing the current scope of application of the Gaming Act to be developed through practice before it may be relevant to consider an extension of the scope”.

While it did not go through with the plan to expand the scope of the Gambling Act, it did agree with a proposal to simplify the process for payment blocking. 

The consultation responses included one from the state treasury, which noted that Spelinspektionen “has had difficulty using the provisions on payment blocking in the way intended by the legislature”. Similarly, Spelinspektionen said the new proposal would lead to “a simpler and more efficient process”.

Within the field of match-fixing, the government proposed allowing licensees to process personal data in order to check whether a sportsperson has participated in insider betting.

Similarly, sporting bodies should also be allowed to process this data for the same reasons.

The report had previously noted that in Sweden there is currently “no actor who has a clearly designated responsibility to obtain, compile, analyse and disseminate information about suspected match-fixing”, and that information sharing has been harmed by certain data protection rules. This, it said, harmed efforts to fight match-fixing.

In addition, the government determined that a clearer definition of “match-fixing” was necessary. 

The new laws would be scheduled to enter into force on 1 July 2023.

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