Spelinspektionen to appeal court’s reduction of Aspire and Genesis fines

| By Daniel O'Boyle
Swedish regulator Spelinspektionen has appealed a decision from a Swedish court to reduce penalties against Genesis Global and Aspire Global’s AG Communications, arguing that the decision was of “decisive importance” to its power to issue appropriate penalties in general.
Swedish channeling down from 2019

The same court also rejected an appeal made by Betway against a Spelinspektionen penalty.

The Aspire and Genesis cases both involved self-exclusion tool Spelpaus, which all operators must be connected to. Genesis received a warning and a SEK4m (£329,600/€382,000/$431,900) penalty fee in March 2019 as it had not been connected to Spelpaus for 33 days.

Aspire – which operates sites such as Karamba and Mr Play – received a SEK3m penalty fee because it had not been connected for nine days.

As specified by Swedish law, the penalties in this case were based on both the seriousness of the offences involved and the annual turnover of the licensee that committed an infringement.

However, both operators appealed the decisions to the Court of Appeal in Linköping, which reduced both penalties to SEK2m and SEK1.5m.

Both operators then appealed the rulings again, in the Court of Appeal in Jönköping.

While the court agreed that the offences were serious, it took issue with the way Spelinspektionen calculated the size of the penalty. 

While the court said the regulator may base penalties on turnover generally, it noted that these cases came very early after the Swedish market opened.

As a result, Spelinspektionen took the operator’s turnover for only January and February 2019 and calculated annual turnover from these figures. Both operators said this led to inaccurate figures, and as Spelinspektionen did not present evidence otherwise, the court lowered each penalty to SEK1m.

However, Spelinspektionen has now opted to appeal both rulings to the Supreme Administrative Court.

“The penalty fees decided by the Court of Appeal are too low in relation to the seriousness of the infringement and the companies’ turnover,” the regulator said. “In order for penalty fees to be dissuasive and proportionate, it is necessary to take the companies’ turnover into account when determining the size of the penalty fee.”

Spelinspektionen added an affirmation that its ability to issue penalties in this way was of “decisive importance” for all decisions made as a result of the Gambling Act.

In addition, the court in Jönköping also rejected an appeal made by Betway after it was found to have offered illegal bonuses in May 2019, for which it received a SEK5m penalty fee. Betway was found to have offered “recurring bonuses” such as free-play incentives for making deposits, even though Sweden’s Gambling Act only allows operators to offer players one-time bonuses upon sign-up.

The court agreed with the regulator’s assessment that a serious violation occurred, and thus upheld the penalty.

Legal appeals have been a major part of the regulatory enforcement process in Sweden since the market opened in 2019. This included an appeal by Kindred overturning sanctions related to a loophole in the country’s temporary deposit cap for online casino.

Though Spelinspektionen attempted to appeal the decision to remove the sanctions, it was ultimately denied leave to appeal.