Svenska Spel chief executive Patrik Hofbauer and chairman Erik Strand have condemned operators that are offering markets on the Swedish lower league football teams following the suspension of all high-profile leagues and competitions.
As a result of the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic limiting the sports betting options available, Hofbauer and Strand say operators have been forced to search high and low for new markets. This has resulted in some offering odds on training matches between clubs in Sweden’s fourth and fifth divisions.
In an opinion piece published in the Swedish media, they noted that almost all sports governing bodies opposed widespread betting on the lowest divisions. More operators offering odds on the lower leagues in Sweden, including for matches where a majority of participants were under the age of 18, would increase the risk of match-fixing, they said.
“The fact that gaming companies act in this way makes us both surprised and disappointed,” Sand and Hofbauer said. “Where is their respect for the sport? Where is the responsibility for the customers? How do they protect consumers, those who gamble on the matches?”
Sand and Hofbauer admitted that Svenska Spel, like most other sportsbook operators, had been “greatly affected” by the cancellation or postponement of almost all major sport.
This, however, didn’t mean they would jeopardise the integrity of sports by offering bets on “rogue” games, they added.
While it admitted to occasionally offering bets on training matches, the operator said that this was only done following consultation with the Swedish Football Association, only at levels of the football pyramid recommended by the sports governing body.
As a result of the current situation, Svenska Spel is demanding legislation is passed to ban betting on amateur sports, something it claimed would look after the interests of athletes and gambling consumers, and take away opportunities for criminals to make money.
The operator has previously attacked proposals by the Swedish Gaming Authority to ban betting on rule violations, such as yellow cards or faults in tennis, for not going far enough. It instead proposed having markets on any in-game event that could be manipulated for betting purposes, such as throw-ins and corner kicks, be prohibited.
It previously suspended all markets on the Division 2 Södra Svealand divison, amid allegations of widespread match-fixing in the lower tier league, in July 2019.
The Covid-19 pandemic has already seen 800 of its 900 staff working across its land-based gaming businesses put on furlough, with 45 of 135 staff at its online division, Svenska Spel Sport & Casino, shifted to part-time working.