A halt to online casino ads
The former gambling monopolist in Sweden, Svenska Spel has announced it is stopping the advertising of its online casino platform for the remainder of 2019.
It will not advertise any of its offerings. This interesting move follows an internal discussion as to how the company can best protect its users. Company spokesperson Patrik Hofbauer explained the decision.
“Svenska Spel has always pushed the line that all the games in the licensed market risk should be classified based on risk levels, and that stricter rules should apply for the more risky games, both in terms of design and marketing. By ending advertising for online casino, we are now taking the plunge.”
This does not mean that there is a ban on all online casinos advertising in Sweden. Gambling operators are free to continue targeting Swedish residents with their ads, once they have the necessary licenses.
Hofbauer is calling for other operators to take a similar approach to Svenska Spel. He believes something needs to be done to help curtail rising levels of gambling addiction.
Traditionally restrictive gambling sector
For decades, Sweden had a very restrictive approach to gambling. The government set up private bookmakers in 1934, because of the large numbers of illegal gambling operators in the country. The goal was for these strictly regulated private bookmakers to weed out those operating illegally.
Then, in 1943 the government nationalized gambling officially. The bookmakers joined forces with Sweden’s main lottery company in 1997 to create Svenska Spel. In 2005, online poker became legal, but only as part of the all-round state monopoly on gambling.
As online gambling grew in popularity across Europe, the Swedish government realized that major changes in the global gambling scene were on the horizon.
Many offshore online gambling platforms were targeting Swedish residents, without consequence, and the Swedish government was missing out on potential tax revenue. The European Commission was also frowning upon EU member states that were persisting with gambling monopoly practices.
These factors ultimately led to the opening up of online gambling in Sweden to non-government entities. The state began to offer licenses to these operators.
Calls for restrictions
The decision to end the monopoly on online gambling in Sweden came in June 2018. This left little time to draw up rules and regulations, or to award licenses before the beginning of 2019.
There was widespread interest in the gambling licenses, with more than 70 applicants. The industry also has an expectation of teething problems in the first months of regulated online gambling.
There has been some resistance to this move in Sweden. For example, the football governing body Svenska Fotbollforbundet is mounting a legal challenge on the issuance of sports betting licenses. It is not in favor of the introduction of prop bets markets for its games. This includes markets such as how many yellow cards or corners there may be in a game. These markets present more opportunities for match fixers.
There are also calls for restricting betting on games in the lower leagues of Swedish football, because match-fixing is more prevalent at this level. Lower league players are less well paid than those playing at the higher levels, so are more likely to engage in match-fixing.
There are also fewer eyes and attention on these games, which makes it easier to get away with nefarious activities.
Recent gambling survey
Svenska Spel’s Hofbauer made references to a recent survey by the Swedish Public Health Authority. The research shows that 30% of people playing slot machines and casino games struggle with gambling issues. Also, 60% of problem gamblers prefer to use online platforms.
Therefore, Svenska Spel’s move to limit its advertising of these platforms may cause less damage to gamblers.
The survey did show a decrease in the overall levels of problem gambling in comparison to the last time the survey was done in 2015. However, there was a large rise in those who were on the so-called Problem Gambling Severity Index. Hofbauer said:
“This indicates that those who are already at risk are adversely affected by advertising. That is why we are now stopping online casino advertising. Simply because we do not want to be attracting at-risk people to the most risky form of play.”