Swedish Operators Join Forces in Opposition of ‘Unrealistic’ Gambling Restrictions

  • Nine Swedish operators back BOS criticism of gambling restrictions
  • Proposed legislation includes mandatory deposit and playing time limits
  • The EGBA and SGA both suggest the black market could benefit from restrictions
  • Swedish channelization rates have been below expectations since re-regulation
Swedish flag on boat in Gothenburg, Sweden
Swedish gaming operators have come together in opposition of the government’s proposal for gambling restrictions. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

A joint effort

Nine CEOs from operators across the Swedish gambling industry have declared their opposition to the government’s plans for new regulatory measures amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Pontus Lindwall, CEO of Betsson AB, Gustaf Hagman, Group CEO of LeoVegas, and Henrik Tjärnström, CEO of Kindred, are among the list of executives who have joined forces in opposition of the measures – now expected to come into force in July after a number of delays.

play into the hands of the unlicensed markets”

In a statement endorsed by the industry executives, the Swedish Trade Association for Online Gambling, Branschföreningen för Onlinespel (BOS), described the restrictions as “unrealistic” and argued that they would “play into the hands of the unlicensed markets.”

The proposed legislation

The legislation was first introduced in April. The original proposal would introduce mandatory deposit limits of SEK5,000 ($542.04) per week for all online gaming accounts, mandatory playing time limits for online gambling, and a maximum bonus limit offer of SEK100 ($10.84).

In May, Sweden’s Social Security Minister Ardalan Shekarabi amended the proposal to exclude horse and sports betting from the weekly deposit limit and to apply the mandatory time limit solely to online casino and slot games. The bonus limit was also amended to pertain only to online casino websites.

major risks in the field of play”

Explaining the tighter gambling restrictions, Shekarabi described “major risks in the field of play” as a result of increased unemployment, financial uncertainty, and a decline in wages in Sweden.

Other opposition

A number of operators have issued their own personal statements criticizing the decision to impose restrictions. Kindred described the move as an “open invitation to illegal gambling sites”. In a statement on its website, the owner of 32Red and Unibet said there is no evidence to suggest there has been an increase in problem gambling as a result of COVID-19.

Kindred saw flat full-year revenue growth for Sweden’s first year of re-regulation. The operator generated revenue of £912.8m ($1.18bn) for 2019, a marginal year-on-year rise of 1%. Kindred attributed its lack of growth in part to the “headwinds” created by Swedish regulation.

Maarten Haijer, Secretary General of the European Gaming and Betting Association, has also criticized any decision to impose restrictions on online gambling amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead, Haijer argued that volume had actually decreased, with Denmark reporting a 60% drop in online gambling and Sweden a 6% dip.

Similarly, the Swedish Gambling Authority has suggested that the proposed restrictions could benefit the black market. The regulatory body argued that the rule changes could reduce channelization rates in the region as players look to join illegal, unrestricted sites, reducing player protection as a result.

Sweden’s channelization issues

Since Sweden’s re-regulation in January 2019, the Swedish Gambling Authority has not reached channelization targets. The new policies have been blamed for negative results in 2019 trading updates for a number of operators.

difficult for the licensed operators who pay 18% gaming tax and also jeopardizes consumer protection”

In Betsson’s Q4 2019 trading update, CEO Pontus Lindwall touched on the issue of channelization. He said: “We have seen declining channelization, which makes it difficult for the licensed operators who pay 18% gaming tax and also jeopardizes consumer protection. High channelization contributes to competition on equal terms for the companies in the sector that operate in the Swedish market.”

Research carried out by Bonusfinder.com found that up to 30% of players in Sweden are searching online for “unlicensed casinos” and other black-market keywords. In the past 12 months, searches for unlicensed casino brands targeting Sweden have risen by 305%.

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