Swedish Government Launches Consultation to Extend Temporary Online Casino Restrictions

  • Pandemic restrictions would remain in place through June 2021, if approved
  • The consultation will look at similar restrictions in other countries like Spain and Latvia
  • Stakeholders can share their thoughts on the matter through November 23
  • Branscheforenigen för Onlinespel has spoken out, opposing the restrictions
Keyboard with a red shift key labelled "online gaming"
The Swedish government has started a consultation to consider extending temporary online casino restrictions imposed because of the pandemic. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Extend through 2021

The government of Sweden has started a consultation to extend online casino restrictions through June 2021. Officials feel that an extension of the temporary controls would provide better protection for players amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. Positive case counts are on the rise in the country and officials feel online gambling will increase as a result.

Such restrictions include a SEK5,000 ($580.64) weekly deposit limit, with bonuses limited to SEK100 ($11.61). Players must also set playing time limits for online gaming and slot machines. Operators, as well as associated groups, criticized the proposal from the very beginning.

Online casino restrictions

Back in April, the Swedish government proposed its new rules to protect players during the pandemic. The government noted a significant increase in online casino gambling and believed further protections were required to be put in place. At the time, the new rules were expected to remain in effect until the end of 2020.

By June, the government approved the restrictions, despite license holders and Spelinspektionen coming out in opposition. The new measures took effect on July 2.

The government also provided the Public Health Agency with a grant to research problem gambling. Officials stated that problem gambling is an indirect symptom of the coronavirus.

In this new consultation, the government wants to highlight measures used in other jurisdictions regarding the COVID-19 pandemic. Officials have plans to review restrictions in Spain related to advertising during the lockdown and the temporary online gambling ban in Latvia. Belgium has also put a weekly deposit cap that will be reviewed, though the cap was planned regardless of the pandemic.

Ardalan Shekarabi, the minister for social security, stated that gambling during the pandemic in Sweden is trending in the wrong direction.

we need to act to reduce the risks to vulnerable consumers”

“We see continued risks in the field of gambling, which means that we need to act to reduce the risks to vulnerable consumers,” he said.

Stakeholders can share thoughts on the online casino restrictions extension but only have until November 23 to do so.

The opposition

Even though the government says that extension will help reduce the risk to vulnerable consumers, the Branscheforenigen för Onlinespel (BOS) is critical of the proposals. When the government first introduced the restrictions, the BOS spoke out against the changes.

The Swedish operator association noted that the measures were initially introduced to anticipate an expected spike in online casino gaming during the pandemic. According to the BOS, the spike never happened.

Gustaf Hoffstedt, the secretary-general of BOS, said that levels of online casino gaming stayed the same. Sports betting decreased due to matches being canceled; it was wagering on horse racing that saw a dramatic increase in participation.

The BOS says that the extension of the restrictions will have a negative impact on the industry. High-volume players will move between operators to avoid deposit limits. This will make it difficult for operators to keep track of player behavior.

The group also says that the restrictions could force Swedish players to visit offshore providers that do not have licenses in the country. Without a license, the offshore operators do not have to follow the restrictions set by the Swedish government. This would mean that players would be participating in online casino gaming without consumer protections in place.

Effects of the restrictions

The restrictions have already impacted the gambling market, especially where revenues are concerned. ATG’s casino revenues were down SEK58m ($6.7m) during the third quarter, while LeoVegas saw its revenues fall 20%.

problem gambling rates remained the same

Svenska Spel revealed that research from October showed no notable rise in problem gambling during the first wave of the virus. Overall, gambling spending decreased. However, the problem gambling rates remained the same.