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Svenska Spel fined SEK100m for multiple failings

| By Nick Brown
Svenska Spel Sport & Casino, the digital arm of the state-owned Swedish gambling operator, is facing a penalty fee of SEK100m (£7.5m/€8.7m/$9.5m) for multiple shortcomings in player duty of care.
Svenska Spel ATG

Svenska Spel’s case relates to Sweden’s duty of care, as outlined in the country’s Gambling Act, introduced in 2019. The penalty fee is the result of an investigation period between October to December 2021.

According to the report issued by Sweden’s state regulator, Spelinspektionen, the review has included, among other things, how the company handled the 10 customers who had lost the most money during the relevant supervision period.

In the eyes of the regulator, Svenska Spel failed to take sufficient measures to protect players against excessive gambling and help them to reduce their gambling when there was reason to do so.

Svenska Spel’s response

In responding to the penalty fee, the digital division’s CEO, Fredrik Wastenson, announced: “We take the Gambling Inspectorate’s decision to heart. The inspection period covers October to December 2021 and we have already addressed many of the views. We have a high level of ambition in the work with our gaming responsibility.”

The operator also drew attention to the need for greater clarity in the regulator’s approach to guidance and supervisory decisions. While it accepted the fine, the operator said that it did not share the authority’s assessment.

“Since the duty of care was introduced in 2019, it has become clearer how it should be interpreted through the Gaming Authority’s guidance and supervisory decisions.

“We have adjusted our work as the picture became clearer. We are constantly developing our work, our methods and technical ability. Not only to live up to the legislation but also our own high ambitions.” 

Since the 2021 supervisory period, the operator has highlighted its approach to developing greater responsible gambling frameworks. These include income checks on high-staking customers, as well as an increase in welfare calls.

“When it comes to how the risk of gambling problems should be assessed, we start from an overall assessment of the customer’s behavior which is based on evidence-based research, our own effect measurements as well as current legislation.”

In finishing, Wastenson concluded: “In its decision, the Swedish Gaming Authority makes a different assessment, which goes further than what can be deduced from the current regulations. We will now consider whether to appeal the decision.”

Mixed 2023 for Svenska Spel

Today’s news comes off the back of a mixed year’s earnings for Svenska Spel in 2023. For the 12 months to 31 December 2023, revenue at Svenska Spel amounted to SEK8.03bn. This was only marginally lower than the previous year.

At the time, Svenska Spel interim CEO president Erik Strand praised the operator’s “stable” performance during 2023.

Reporting at the time, Strand said that while revenue levelled off, this was positive, given the challenges facing the business. These, he said, include wider economic concerns, “zero growth” in the gaming market and issues facing Casino Cosmopol and Vegas.

On this last point, Svenska Spel also announced it is closing its Casino Cosmopol venues in Gothenburg and Malmö due to limited profitability. However, growth in other areas of the business, Strand said, places the operator in a strong position moving forward.

“We continue to be a successful business despite the challenges we face in the outside world, which is slowing down growth in the gaming market and increased inflation,” Strand said. “In 2024, we will continue to create sustainable gaming experiences that contribute to a better Sweden.”

Incidentally, Svenska Spel will soon be under new leadership, with Anna Johnson to take over as CEO. Strand is now serving as interim CEO after Patrik Hofbauer left the business at the start of the year. Johnson will become CEO in June, with Strand continuing in his temporary role until then.

Busy day for Spelinspektionen

Svenska Spel is the second company to have been fined by Spelinspektionen today, with the Swedish regulator also issuing a SEK300,000 penalty fee and a warning to Yggdrasil. The slots studio is alleged to have supplied gaming software to an unlicensed company operating in Sweden.

The regulator said it began its investigation on 16 January 2024, when it started to investigate websites being run by unlicensed operators in Sweden. It is understood that Yggdrasil was a supplier for one of these websites, according to Spelinspektionen’s decision outline.

This contravenes chapter 11, section 6 of Sweden’s Gambling Act. This section outlines that game software licensees must not provide software for anyone that does not hold a licence.

In response to the investigation, Yggdrasil said it had corrected the issue on 23 January 2024. It stated that the contravention had come about due to a breach in contract between itself and a retailer. Yggdrasil stipulated that it no longer “manufactures, supplies, installs or changes gaming software for players without the necessary licence”.

The regulator acknowledged that Yggdrasil complied with its order, but added that this is expected of all licensees.

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