Swedish gambling regulator Spelinspektionen has cleared four operators of any wrongdoing over allegations that they offered betting on sporting events where the majority of participants were under the age of 18.
Hillside Sports, which operates the bet365 brand in Sweden, as well as Betsson, ATG and the Kindred Group-owned Spooniker have all had their cases dropped by the regulator.
Spelinspektionen had initially said that all of the operators in question had been taking bets on the individual performances of under-18s in a football match, such as whether they would score during the game. The regulator issued a number of warnings and penalty fees as part of the process.
Among these punishments was a SEK10m (£801,108/€926,058/$1.0m) penalty fee for Hillside, after the regulator in July said that it offered odds on five football matches in which a majority of players were aged 18 or under.
However, Spelinspektionen has now backtracked on the rulings, saying that after further investigation, none of the four operators violated licence conditions as the featured players who were eligible for the bets in the games were, for the most part, over the age of 18.
Licensed operators are not permitted to offer odds on events where the majority of participants are under the age of 18, as this is seen to increase the danger of minors being exposed to attempts to manipulate sporting results.
Spelinspektionen added that it is working on regulations regarding bans and restrictions on betting in order to tackle match-fixing in professional sport. The regulator said betting on the individual performance of under-18s will be taken into account when drafting these rules.
The regulator also charged a host of other operators over similar activities with betting on under-18s. Like Hillside, The Star Group was handed a penalty fee of SEK10m for offering odds on games majority of players were aged 18 or under on at least two occasions.
Flutter Entertainment's Betfair International and ElectraWorks, the operator behind bwin.se, were handed penalties of SEK5.5m. Betfair was found guilty of one breach of regulations, and Electraworks of three breaches.
Casinostugan and Zecure Gaming were each ordered to pay SEK3.5m for similar breaches, while Bethard was issued with a penalty fee of SEK2.5m and CoolBet operator Polar SEK700,000.
Cherry's ComeOn Sweden subsidiary was hit with a SEK9.5m penalty, while its Snabbare brand was handed a penalty of SEK6m, and Hajper, another ComeOn brand, SEK4.5m. Legolas.bet, meanwhile, was issued with a SEK100,000 penalty.
Such rulings caused an outcry in Sweden, with the affected operators arguing that Spelinspektionen had not been clear about how it planned to enforce the prohibition on U18 betting. This prompted Gaming Innovation Group to temporarily suspend sports betting via its proprietary Rizk and Guts brands, saying this lack of clarity had put it in “an impossible position”.
Swedish operator association Branschföreningen för Onlinespel (BOS) also hit out at the ruling and requested an urgent meeting with the regulator, seeking to clarify its stance on the matter.