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Spelinspektionen: Determining effects of deposit cap is “not possible”

| By Daniel O'Boyle
Swedish regulator Spelinspektionen said it is “not possible” to determine the effects of the country’s controversial temporary deposit cap, but added that a single cap applied across all licensees would be a better “long-term solution” than an operator-level cap.

The measures – including not only a SEK5,000 (£403/€480/$527) monthly deposit cap for online casino but also a SEK100 limit on bonuses and certain login time limits, among other rules – were introduced in July 2020. Initially, they were only meant to last until the end of the year, but they were extended repeatedly, before finally being repealed in November 2021.

When the measures were repealed, the government told Spelinspektionen to evaluate their success. At the time, the government planned on bringing back the cap, but it eventually scrapped these plans.

The regulator said it looked at the success of the measures through a number of lenses. It examined how gambling habits changed, whether problem gambling rates changed, whether gambling-related debt became more common, the degree of operator compliance with the rules, channelisation rates, public perception of the rules and whether the measures covered the forms of gambling that posed the highest risk.

The body consulted with a number of groups, including the Swedish Enforcement Agency, the Swedish Consumer Agency and the Swedish Public Health Agency, as well as operator bodies Sper and BOS and lottery monopoly Svenska Spel. It also examined data from the Swedish Tax Agency and H2 Gambling Capital, as well as its own data from licensees, and looked at Danish data to examine a similar country that did not put these type of measures in place.

However, it noted that despite the data available, it was still difficult to definitively say that certain events were caused by the temporary measures, due to the large number of significant events going on at the time and the lack of a true control group. 

Given the short space of time between the launch of the Swedish market, the pandemic itself and the introduction of the rules, Spelinspektionen said it was “not possible to distinguish the effects” of the regulations.

The regulator said that problem gambling rates appeared to remain “relatively unchanged” over the course of the pandemic, but that it may have increased “in some groups”. It added that rates of harm continued to be higher for online casino players.

Looking at compliance with the rules, Spelinspektionen said that “in some respects it was good”, but that some operators that offered both betting and online gaming found a way to “circumvent” the cap, which courts later determined was legal

The regulator noted in its evaluation, however, that certain betting products may also be “high-risk”, and so argued that betting should also be covered by any future deposit cap.

There were no violations of the other rules detected by Spelinspektionen.

Spelinspektionen added that while the cap may have offered a point of “reflection” for players who reached it, but said the cap was high enough that a player could gamble in “an unsustainable way” without reaching it.

As a result, it said that licensees must continue to do their own assessments.

The regulator also noted that the limits only applied on a per-operator basis, meaning that a player could deposit up to SEK5,000 with a number of different operators, allowing for a very large amount of gambling activity.

“In our opinion, a long-term solution to strengthen consumer protection can be a deposit limit that would apply to all licensees,” the regulator said, though it added that there would be issues involved with this that would “require further investigation”.

Looking specifically at the bonus limits, Spelinspektionen said that “bonus offers tend to attract people in vulnerable groups to gamble for more than they intended”, and as a result, “stricter bonus provisions are relevant in the event of a similar crisis”.

In terms of the effect of the rules on channelisation, the regulator said there was a slight uptick in licensed play between 2020 and 2021, but that it was “difficult to say whether the degree of channeling has been affected by the temporary regulation”.

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