Legal

Swedish court cuts Genesis and Aspire self-exclusion penalties to SEK1m

| By Daniel O'Boyle
A Swedish appeals court has reduced penalties against both Genesis Global and Aspire Global’s AG Communications, after determining that regulator Spelinspektionen could not base penalties on turnover for offenses very soon after the Swedish regulated market opened.
stockholm

Both penalties dealt with self-exclusion tool Spelpaus, which all operators must be connected to, with both Genesis and Aspire performing manual checks instead.

Genesis received a warning and a SEK4m (£329,600/€382,000/$431,900) penalty fee in March 2019 after a number of consumers that had self-excluded informed the regulator that it had not been connected to Spelpaus for 33 days. The operator’s websites include Sloty, Play.com and Casino Joy.

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

Like all penalties in Sweden, the payments 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 cut both penalties in half to SEK2m and SEK1.5m.

While the court agreed with Spelinspektionen that both operators had serious deficiencies in their self-exclusion practices, and thus must pay a penalty, it said the way turnover – which is used to determine the size of a penalty – was counted was wrong, and so the penalties were lower.

The two operators, though, both appealed the ruling again, this time to the Court of Appeal in Jönköping.

The operators both argued that the infringements were not serious and that therefore a only warning should apply. Each said that there was not enough proof of serious negative consequences of their failings to justify a penalty, but Spelinspektionen said the fact that self-excluded players were able to use their sites was enough of a consequence.

The court again said the infringements were serious, however.

“In general, the administrative court finds that it has been shown that the company has breached its obligation to deny self-sexcluded players access to play in the manner that follows from relevant regulation”

However, the court said Spelinspektionen was wrong in the way that it calculated the size of the penalty. While it said the regulator may base penalties on turnover generally, it noted that for these cases, it took the operator’s turnover for only January and February 2019 and calculated annual turnover from these figures. The operators both said this led to inaccurate figures, and as Spelinspektionen did not present evidence otherwise, the court lowered both penalties to SEK1m.

This decision may be appealed again, however, in Sweden’s Supreme Court.

This marks the second major defeat in a court of appeal for Spelinspektionen this week. A court also refused the regulator’s leave to appeal a case against Kindred concerning a loophole in the country’s SEK5,000 deposit cap for online casino. Under this loophole, players could potentially deposit more than SEK5,000 to spend on online casino by raising their deposit limit, depositing funds and lowering the limit again.

Both Genesis and Aspire also received penalty fees in 2019 over bonus violations. Genesis’ penalty was reduced on appeal, but Aspire’s appeal was rejected.

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