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Swedish regulator acts over Svenska Spel free-to-air show deemed “advertising”

| By Richard Mulligan
Sweden’s media watchdog has found against broadcaster TV4 and Svenska Spel over a free-to-air television show featuring gambling that led to a complaint from BOS, the country’s online gambling trade association.
Svenska Spel

The Swedish Press and Broadcasting Authority (SPBA) found that TV4 breached the Radio and Television Act with its recurring segment where guests play Svenska Spel’s keno and scratchcard products. The SPBA ruled that the segment was advertising rather than editorial, as TV4 claimed, and failed to meet advertising guidelines.

The cases will now be submitted to the administrative court as SPBA’s review board decided to apply for TV4 to pay a special fee for the violation.

Svesnka Spel
the spba found that the segment was advertising rather than editorial

SPBA noted that Svenska Spel covered costs for the productions at the same time that TV4 received additional compensation. While TV4 said the compensation was sponsorship, the SPBA board said it considered that it is advertising in the sense of the Radio and Television Act.

Violation of law

The SPBA explained: “Marketing must be designed and presented so that it is clear that it is marketing. According to the Radio and Television Act, there must be a special signature that clearly distinguishes the advertisements from the other content before and after each advertisement.

“Since there was no such signature that clearly distinguishes this advertisement from the other content, a violation … has occurred. TV4 has therefore violated the provision on advertisement signature.”

BOS, the country’s online gambling trade association, welcomed the ruling, saying it filed a complaint over the segment some ago. Its complaint further claimed that the segment failed to provide any consumer protection as required by law, something the SPBA does not address in its statement.

Gustaf Hoffstedt, BOS secretary-general, said: “Today’s decision is a victory for thousands of Swedes who want to engage with the gambling market in a safe and regulated manner. There should be no confusion about what constitutes gambling advertising or special schemes that circumvent the statutory disclosure requirement for the 18+ age limit or information about the national problem gambling helpline. We are pleased that the Swedish Press and Broadcasting Authority has reached the same conclusion.

“The decision by the authority will help level the playing field on Sweden’s gambling market. By claiming that the keno and scratchcard segments did not constitute advertising, Svenska Spel was able to promote their monopoly products outside of regular advertising spots, gaining an unfair advantage over its competitors. We welcome today’s decision and hope it marks the end of covert advertising practices in the gambling market.”

B2B permits

Last month, BOS welcomed plans for B2B permits in Sweden, but raised concerns that regulator Spelinspektionen may overestimate the impact these will have on channelisation.

The government of Sweden announced a bill that would, among other things, require B2B online gambling suppliers to obtain permits to do business with licensed operators. This, it hopes, will reduce illegal gambling in the country, as suppliers that offer their services to operators targeting the Swedish market could have their permits revoked.

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