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Swedish industry hopeful election leads to relaxed bonus rules

| By Daniel O'Boyle
The Swedish gaming industry is hopeful that a new government will loosen the country’s strict bonus rules and encourage the break-up of Svenska Spel, as authorities continue to count votes in a historically close election.
Sweden elections

The country held a general election on Sunday (11 September) to elect members to the Riksdag, with these members then electing a new government. While results are typically clear within a day of voting, a final announcement for this year’s election is not expected until tomorrow – three days after polls closed – as counting continues.

However, projections currently forecast a change in government by a single seat to a right-leaning coalition. A bloc of the centre-right Moderate Party, the right-wing Sweden Democrats, the Christian Democrats and the Liberal Party is projected to receive 175 seats, one more than the threshold needed for a majority.

If this occurs, a new government would be formed, with the Moderate Party selecting the prime minister. This would replace the current government led by the Social Democratic Party.

Not enough care

Gustaf Hoffstedt – secretary general of Swedish trade association Branscheforenigen för Onlinespel  (BOS), and a former Moderate Party member of the Riksdag – said that the industry would welcome a new government.

While the incumbent government passed the Gambling Act that ultimately opened up the Swedish licensed online gambling market, it clashed repeatedly with the industry over a number of rules imposed on operators, including a temporary SEK5,000 deposit cap while the industry dealt with Covid-19.

“From a strict gambling regulatory perspective, a development with a new government would be welcome,” Hoffstedt said. “The outgoing Social Democratic minister responsible for gambling policy took the long-awaited initiative to abolish the gambling monopoly in favor of licences, but after that the minister did not show the system enough care.”

In particular, Hoffstedt said the Social Democrat-led coalition was friendly to the country’s former monopolies – such as lottery Svenska Spel and horse racing operator ATG. However, he felt that businesses from abroad did not receive the same treatment.

“Gambling companies with close connections to the Social Democratic Party received positive preferential treatment, international gambling companies were treated stepmotherly and the spirit of consensus that characterised the political parties in the Riksdag was wasted,” he said.

Hoffstedt noted that the current government had allowed Svenska Spel to operate as a lottery and land-based monopoly, while also competing in the regulated sector through its Sport & Casino brand. However, both major parties in the potential new coalition had called for the business to be broken up, meaning this might be on the cards in the future.

“If there is a change of government, it is reasonable to expect that a possible sale of AB Svenska Spel’s subsidiary Sport & Casino will be higher on the agenda, because both the Moderates and the Sweden Democrats, who are both part of the new majority, have advocated just that,” he said.

Marketing moderation

Among the current government’s most recent plans for the industry was a change to the standards that operators must abide by in marketing, which has been called the standard of “adjusted moderation”.

When this was proposed, BOS had welcomed the fact the government had stopped short of harsher proposals like a daytime ad ban, but said the standard was extremely vague and would create uncertainty. Now, Hoffstedt noted that the new Riksdag may not pass the prior government’s proposal to implement this standard. At the same time, he was hopeful that the country’s strict bonus rules – allowing operators to only offer players one bonus, which must be on sign-up – could be relaxed, as the Moderates also proposed.

“It is also reasonable to expect that the tightening of gambling marketing proposed by the outgoing government, so-called ‘adjusted moderation’, will be more difficult to win the Riksdag’s approval,” he said. “And maybe we can also hope for a somewhat more liberal bonus regulation for betting and casino products, but we don’t know much about that yet.”

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