Sweden’s MoF sets out rationale for offshore crackdown

| By Daniel O'Boyle
The Swedish Ministry of Finance and Chamber of Commerce director general Gunnar Larsson has offered an explanation of last week’s proposal to tighten controls on offshore operators taking bets in the country.

The report from Larsson and the Ministry was commissioned by Minister for Social Protection Ardalan Shekerabi, looking into tackling match-fixing and unlicensed gambling, as well as sanctions for anti-money laundering breaches.

Under the current system, regulator Spelinspektionen has authority over any gambling targeted at the Swedish market -such as through marketing or local payment options – and may take action against operators doing so without a license.

However, in a short summary of the report, Larsson revealed last week that he recommended the scope of the act be changed to include all gambling available to Swedish players.

With the full report published, the Chamber of Commerce and Ministry of Finance more fully outlined the reasons why such a change should be made.

The report said that “it is necessary to shift focus from what possible actions gaming companies have taken to attract Swedish customers and instead focus on whether the company has taken measures to prevent participation from Sweden”.

It added that under current rules, it can be difficult to determine whether a site is offering gambling to Swedish players or not, particularly as many Swedes may be comfortable using sites in English and paying in Euros.

As a result, it argued that the new approach is “significantly simplified”.

“To determine if an online game is covered by the scope of the Gaming Act, it is sufficient to conjure up if it is possible for a player who is in Sweden to register and create an account,” it said. “For the application of blocking card payments, payment service providers may block payments to anyone who does not hold a Swedish gaming licence.”

The report continued by noting that – when the Gambling Act was introduced – the government opted to let its scope only cover gambling targeted at Sweden so that all online operators did not have a requirement to apply for a licence. This, it said, ignored the fact that operators could instead simply block Swedish customers.

While the report acknowledged that Spelinspektionen cannot take action against all websites that fail to block Swedish customers, it will still have further power compared to its current situation.

The suggestion to change approach to unlicensed gambling comes after the Netherlands’ Minister for Consumer Protection Sander Dekker announced a similar change just before the country’s online gambling market opened. This resulted in a number of operators such as EntainKindred, 888  Betsson, LeoVegas and Casumo all blocking Dutch customers as they pursue a licence.

In addition, the report provided reasoning behind further recommendations.

For example, Spelinspektionen may conduct “mystery shopping”, allowing it to see if certain gambling sites are available to Swedish players. It said that “covert supervision” was necessary in order to prove that operators were accepting Swedish customers.

The report also explained that it did not believe it should require all payment operators to block all unlicensed sites, as this could prove too burdensome for the providers.

Looking at match-fixing-related recommendations, the report outlined details behind the proposal for reporting requirements, such as all operators being required to report any suspected cases of professional sportspeople placing bets in violation of match-fixing rules.

The report noted that in Sweden there is currently “no actor who has a clearly designated responsibility for to obtain, compile, analyze and disseminate information about suspected match-fixing”, and that information sharing has been harmed by certain data protection rules.

It also noted that in the past there have been games with suspicious betting activity in which some operators suspended betting but others did not.

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