Betsson Hit With $2.2m Fine for Violations in Sweden

  • Betsson partnered with 7-Eleven and Pressbyrån to offer retail vouchers to fund online accounts
  • A Betsson-branded Mastercard offered faster withdrawals and special Mastercard promos
  • Products launch in March 2019; Spelinspektionen’s investigation began in November 2019
Gavel next to a bag labeled "FINE"
Betsson has been fined $2.2m by Swedish regulators for violations regarding retail vouchers and illegal bonuses. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Update: Betsson has published a press release in response to the fine issued by Spelinspektionen, saying it came as a surprise. The company will be appealing the sanction as it claimed that the vouchers offered were “in line with the applicable law”. The operator also denied offering “commercial incentives or benefits” through its own-brand Mastercard.

A couple of violations

Betsson has been hit with a SEK20m ($2.2m) fine by Swedish gambling regulator Spelinspektionen for letting its customers fund online accounts by using retail vouchers. The regulator also deemed that bonuses offered to players via a branded Mastercard debit card were illegal. The size of the fine was determined by the nature of the violations and length of time during which they took place.

The two products went live in the Swedish market in March 2019. Betsson had been working with convenience stores such as 7-Eleven and Pressbyrån to sell retail vouchers with which customers could directly fund online gambling accounts. 

limited edition debit card that linked directly to their Betsson accounts

The partnership with Mastercard gave gamblers the opportunity to obtain a limited edition debit card that linked directly to their Betsson accounts. With it, customers could add funds to their Betsson accounts no matter where in the world they may be. The card also provided access to regular promotions such as tickets to major sports events. 

Voucher violations

Spelinspektionen launched its investigation in November 2019 (press release is in Swedish). It determined that 7-Eleven and Pressbyrån effectively served as self-appointed gaming agents even though they did not hold licenses to be gaming product retailers. Betsson tried to argue the charges, saying the vouchers were part of a partnership with a company called Convenience Card, a specialist in prepaid and gift cards. The gambling operator said that there was no direct partnership with the two named retailers.

Betsson also said that no vouchers were actually sold in stores, which meant that these retailers could not be considered gaming agents. Betsson went on to explain that the vouchers were simply a marketing ploy, with a cumulative value of only SEK250,597 ($27,196). The partnership has since ended and no vouchers are still being sold.

Spelinspektionen refuted Betsson’s claims, saying that simply selling the vouchers was deemed to be the sale of online gaming products. These vouchers could fund only a Betsson account. This was a violation of the Gaming Act’s Chapter 11, Section 2, as the retailers were acting as unlicensed gambling product sales agents.

Issue with Mastercard partnership

Explaining the Mastercard violation, Betsson said the aim was to facilitate faster withdrawals for its players, highlighting that Mastercard is licensed through the Swedish financial regulator, Finansinspektionen. Betsson refuted the idea that any incentive or features that that were included with the card could be considered player bonuses. 

players can only receive one bonus when they sign up for an online gambling account

Betsson did not allow the card to be used alongside certain promotions, as there was uncertainty about the interpretation of the rules regarding bonuses. As per the Gaming Act, players can only receive one bonus when they sign up for an online gambling account.

Unrest in the Swedish market

Sweden’s licensed online gambling industry launched in January 2019, spurring many notable gambling operators to obtain licenses and open platforms for Swedish players. Since then, however, the industry has been marred by controversy.

Many companies have complained about the vagueness of the rules; several have been fined because of regulatory misinterpretations. 

Most recently, the Swedish Social Security Minister, Ardalan Shekarabi, attempted to implement stricter deposit limits, wanting to restrict players to depositing SEK5,000 ($495) per week. This led to CEOs of some of the leading licensed operators publicly rebuking this idea, threatening to exit the licensed market if these changes were implemented.