Reasons for the suspension
The Gaming Innovation Group (GiG) is suspending its sports betting operations in Sweden for the time being. The company has two brands in the country, Guts and Rizk.
The move comes after the Swedish Gambling Authority levied a SEK3.5m ($371,000) fine on GiG, ruling that its brands offered sports bettors the chance to place bets on sporting games and events in which most of the players were younger than 18 years old.
It is illegal in Sweden to bet on sporting events involving underage people.
GiG will suspend its operations until the Spelinspektionen gaming authority clarifies some interpretations of the new rules and regulations. Early this year, the gambling framework in Sweden was changed, ending a monopoly on the sector and allowing overseas operators to enter the market.
Some operators are not happy with the new rules, including GiG. They say these regulations are “too open for interpretation”, and that this can lead to unintentional breaches from licensees.
GiG’s CEO, Robin Reed, said that the company is “in an impossible position due to the lack of clarity in the Swedish gambling regulation.”
He went on to say that it is vital that the company and its shareholders are protected from potential misinterpretations.
While GiG is suspending its sports betting operations, the company will still honor any bets that have not yet been settled. Eight operators in Sweden were fined for the same type of breach, including bwin, bet365, and the Stars Group. GiG plans to appeal the sanctions because of its disagreement with the gambling authority’s assessment of the matter.
Changing the gambling landscape
Sweden was traditionally very restrictive when it came to gambling. Up until 1934, there were a lot of unlicensed gambling operators in the country, which led to the state setting up its own bookmakers. In 1943, gambling was nationalized, and in 1997, the government began using the services of a lottery company to form Svenska Spel. Online poker became legal in 2005, but it was also under control of the state gambling monopoly.
With online gambling becoming more popular, it became harder for the authorities to keep illegal operators from targeting Swedish people. Eventually, they had no choice but to end the monopoly and open up the sector.
Under the new rules, the gambling space in Sweden has three different compartments. Most of the competition will be in online sports betting and gambling. Then there will be a segment for lotteries and bingo, and a third for physical casinos and slot machines.
The new framework came into effect very suddenly, and a lot of people say that it was overly rushed. The decision to open up the market officially came in June 2018 and operators could set up shop in January 2019. Therefore, it is not surprising that there have been teething problems.