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CEO of ATG calls for ‘credit break’ to prevent gambling-related borrowing

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Hasse Lord Skarplöth, the chief executive of Swedish horse racing operator AB Trav och Galopp (ATG), has called for legislators to introduce a “credit break” self-exclusion tool, to protect at-risk consumers from using borrowed money to fund gambling.
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Skarplöth lauded Sweden’s Spelpaus self-exclusion scheme, which was launched in January 2019, stating that since its launch over 50,000 customers have chosen to exclude themselves from gambling.

However, pointing to statistics from the Swedish Debt Collection Agency (Kronofogden), he said 400,000 people in the country cannot pay off their loans, and that the number of people applying for debt restructuring is at a record high.

The approval rate for debt restructuring has remained stable at around 55%, he said, but those who have an ongoing gambling addiction are disqualified from receiving assistance.

He pointed to the ease with which customers looking for easy credit online can quickly borrow “quite large amounts”, including those who are already heavily in debt, or have an ongoing case with the Kronofogden.

Total debt with the agency has more than doubled since 2017, Skarplöth said, and is now up to SEK2.6bn (£228.41m/€254.45m/$304.95m). The authority estimates than some 15-20% of applicants have gambling debts.

Kronofogden statistics show that those applying for debt restructuring due to gambling debts look very different to others, who may apply after suffering a life-threatening crisis, divorce, unemployment or illness.

Applicants with gambling problems, on the other hand, are shown to go very quickly from an orderly existence with housing and work to an impossible financial situation, via a series of quick loans.

Skarplöth stated that as a gaming company, ATG is well aware of the responsibility it holds to protect its customers. He said that the industry can only have real consumer protection through the introduction of his idea, ‘creditpaus’, allowing consumers to exclude themselves from applying for quick, easy, high-interest loans.

Sweden’s gambling regulator, Spelinspektionen, has launched two marketing pushes this year to drive awareness of its Spelpaus scheme, in June and November. The latest campaign, which will run until mid-January next year, will be run predominantly online, with banners to feature on a range of different websites, with 13 messages to be pushed out.

The Swedish government announced last month that it would aim to keep temporary online casino restrictions in place until June 2021. The restrictions were introduced in July, and include a controversial weekly SEK5,000 deposit limit.

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