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Spelinspektionen submits match-fixing rules for EC approval

| By Daniel O'Boyle
Sweden’s Gaming Authority (Spelinspektionen) submitted new regulations on match fixing to the country’s National Board of Trade, for the board to notify the European Commission of the changes, and has conducted an impact assessment of the rules.

Sweden’s Gaming Authority (Spelinspektionen) submitted new regulations on match fixing to the country’s National Board of Trade, for the board to notify the European Commission of the changes, and has conducted an impact assessment of the rules.

Swedish gambling regulator’s rules would limit betting to the top four divisions of football.

Furthermore, betting on Swedish Cup would be limited to matches featuring teams from the top four tiers. Markets for matches involving foreign clubs would only be permitted when each participating team is from the top four tiers of each country’s footballing pyramid.

Operators would only be able to take bets on international matches from under-21 level upwards.

Last month, when it announced the plans to ban betting on lower-league matches, Spelinspektionen also proposed banning betting on training matches or friendlies entirely, but opted to continue to allow international friendlies.

In addition, betting must not be offered in the event of a rule violation such as a yellow card or penalty in football, while betting must not be offered on individual performance of anyone under 18 years of age.
In addition, licensees will be required to produce annual reports on potential match-fixing activity.

The new rules on match fixing can only take effect after the EU Commission has given its opinion, which takes just over three months. Spelinspektionen said the rules could come into effect no earlier than the end of 2020.

The regulator said that the restriction on lower-league betting was necessary because it can be more liable to match-fixing.

Match fixing is considered as one of the biggest threats to sports today and as a result of this as well against betting and the companies that provide betting,” it said.“There are, as far as can be judged, great risks in offering bets on games at low divisions in football.

“Monitoring from both sports federations and the media is lower and the athletes do not make money and are thus more vulnerable. There is also a risk of athletes or whole associations coming in contact with match fixing at lower levels and then taking the problem up through the pyramid with any sporting success.”

However, it added that if its regulations were stricter, such as with greater limits on restrictions on live betting, it would prevent many operators from offering these products at all. The regulator added that overly strict match-fixing regulations could potentially lead to some operators leaving the Swedish market.

Spelinspektionen also said it was aware of the risk that the restrictions could apply in encouraging more players to play on unlicensed sites.

“The unlicensed gaming market is never further away than a click on your computer or phone,” it said.

These sites, it said, have less reason to fight match-fixing and so increased play on these sites could potentially lead to greater integrity problems. The regulator also noted that it may become harder for authorities to recognise suspicious betting patterns on lower-league events or friendly matches, as licenced operators will no longer take bets on them.

“Under the Gaming Act, licensed gaming companies have incentives to report suspected manipulation and are urged by industry organizations to do so, while unlicensed gaming companies have little or no incentive to report to police or otherwise collaborate with Swedish authorities or industry cross-border cooperation bodies,” Spelinspektionen said.

In terms of the effect on operators, the Authority said that the majority of the restrictions require “one-off action”, which it said would mean the effects of implementation would be minimal.

While Spelinspektionen acknowledged that players would need to be notified of the changes, it said it could do this itself in appropriate time.

The exception to this was the restriction on individual bets concerning minors. The regulator said it did not have access to enough data to calculate the cost in time or money to bring in these rules, as they vary too much between operators.

The regulator added that there was no concern that the measures violated any EU laws.

EU states can create their own rules surrounding regulation of gambling,, provided the Treaty on the General Rules of Procedure of the European Union concerning the four freedoms (movement of goods, movement of capital, movement of people and provision of services) and secondary rights are taken into account.

National measures that do not take into account these freedoms may still be justified, but only if applied in a non-discriminatory manner for “imperative” reasons of public interest.

“The regulations proposed in will not be discriminatory, they are motivated by compelling public interest considerations and the integrity of Swedish sports, they are appropriate  to achieve their goals and they do not go beyond what is necessary to achieve a well-functioning gaming market where sporting integrity is preserved,” Spelinspektionen said.

The regulator consulted Sweden’s igaming operator trade association Branschföreningen för Onlinespel BOS, its National Sports Federation, and the gaming industry's national organization, SPER, before the impact assessment.

When first proposed, Spelinspektionen’s rules proved controversial in Sweden. BOS and industry consulting company H2 Gambling Capital called for less restriction, arguing the rules will shift activity to unlicensed companies.

However, Svenska Spel argued the proposals did not go far enough to stop betting-related corruption.

The legislation is now subject to a standstill period that runs until 21 August this year.

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