Svenska Spel chief slams restaurant casino sector

| By Zak Thomas-Akoo
Patrik Hofbauer, president and CEO of Swedish state-owned gambling operator Svenska Spel, has criticised the Swedish model of restaurant casinos, arguing they operate “almost without rules and control.”

Hofbauer made remarks on Svenska Spel’s corporate blog where he criticised the separate rules that restaurant casinos enjoy in the country, as well as the resulting lack of official data – which he says has implications for both addicts and money launderers.

Restaurant casinos are casinos at premises with liquor licences. While Svenska Spel has a monopoly on regular casinos through its Casino Cosmopol brand, operators can offer table games at these locations.

He continued: “Today, there are approximately 375 permits for restaurant casinos in Sweden. We do not have statistics on help-seeking players who play restaurant casino because it is not in the authorities’ official data.”

“Those who develop a gambling problem often become ‘mixed addicts’ and gamble on several forms of gambling and with several gambling companies. It is not unlikely that the same pattern is found in the guests of restaurant casinos. And without control – no control.”

Hofbauer also criticised the amount that gamblers can spend and the speed with which it is possible to do so: “With the new gaming law, the wagering limit on blackjack more than tripled, from a maximum of SEK75 ($7.44/€7.05/£6.06) to SEK236 per hand. That may sound like a little, but you can easily get rid of a thousand a minute with those conditions.”

“A high roller is not content to play just one hand or one chip. The organization Spelfriheten says that several of their help seekers have said that with alcohol in their bodies, the blackjack table at the nightclub has been more inviting for the moment than the dance floor.”

He ended his remarks with a demand to change the rules for these operators, particularly relating to safer gambling measures such as self-exclusion where rules are weaker for restaurant casinos.

“We have a requirement and wish – Away with the exception. Honest business can withstand scrutiny and equal rules of the game. Remove the exemptions from complying with the law on duty of care and money laundering.”

It’s not the first time the executive has opined on the rules operators face in Sweden; in May Hofbauer called for more regulatory stability for the industry in the wake of Swedish gambling reforms.

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