Sweden Hits AG Communications With $1.74m Conditional Fine Over Casino Bonus Offer

  • Sweden's Patent and Market Court fined the Aspire Global subsidiary for Gaming Act violations
  • The penalty will only be payable if AG Communications does not make the relevant changes
  • The gambling operator's Karamba casino brand violated advertising rules of moderation
  • Its bonus offer advert did not clearly display key bonus terms and was difficult to understand
  • AG Communications also got a fine of nearly $250,000 in April 2019 for a self-exclusion offense
judge's gavel with flag of Sweden in the background
The Patent and Market Court in Sweden has conditionally fined AG Communications $1.74m for Gaming Act violations. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Gaming Act violations

Gambling operator and Aspire Global subsidiary AG Communications received a conditional fine of SEK15m ($1.74m) from the Patent and Market Court in Sweden. The penalty relates to Gaming Act violations concerning its Karamba online casino brand. 

The consumer ombudsman in Sweden, Konsumentverket, tweeted out a statement about the court ruling on November 9:

Holding an online gaming license from the Swedish gaming regulator Spelinspektionen, the company was allegedly in breach of the country’s advertising rules.

AG Communications has now told Gambling Insider that it will not need to settle the penalty, as the company has since updated its policies to ensure full compliance. The fine would only be payable if the operator did not comply with the court ruling.

Details of the ruling

The violations relate mainly to an advertisement that offered 100 free spins and a bonus of up to SEK2,000 ($232) at Karamba’s online casino. However, gamblers needed to play through more than SEK70,000 ($8,104) before they could get their hands on the bonus. 

advert did not meet the Swedish Gaming Act’s moderation requirement

The court ruled that the advert did not meet the Swedish Gaming Act’s moderation requirement, and that it should have clearly stated significant conditions for the bonus offer when advertising. Some adverts promoting the offer did not specify any bonus terms, while the terms on Karamba.com appeared at the bottom of the ad in small, difficult-to-read text. 

According to the ruling, the advert format made it very difficult for the consumer to understand the offer. The conditions themselves also placed far-reaching demands on the consumer, requiring players to turn over a large sum of money within a short period to get the bonus. 

Necessary changes

There are five points as part of the November 4 ruling, each of which carries a SEK3m ($347,319) fine. The operator can no longer use the bonus offer in its current form and must make sure that all future ads clearly state what players need to do to get the bonus. The court also ordered AG Communications to provide information on problem gambling support organizations and state minimum age requirements in its ads.  

the court was not amused

In addition, the court questioned why the operator was trying to persuade consumers to continue with the registration process when they did not want to do so. If someone stopped halfway, they got a message saying: “Wait, the chance to win big is waiting for you. Complete the registration and start playing!” While AG Communications claimed that it meant the message jokingly, the court was not amused.

The Patent and Market Court ruling on the matter received praise from the Konsumentverket’s process advisor, Pär Magnusson. He applauded the court for clearly stating that operators cannot mislead customers about the chance to bag large bonuses when in reality they must first gamble “very large amounts for a short time”.

The consumer ombudsman originally filed a lawsuit in October 2019 regarding these violations.

Not the first offense

This is not the first time that AG Communications received a fine in Sweden. In April 2019, the Swedish Gambling Authority fined the operator almost $250,000 for not complying with self-exclusion requirements. 

The company had not joined the Spelpaus.se self-exclusion database, which is a requirement for all licensed operators in Sweden. This meant that excluded gamblers could still access game offerings on the 13 online gambling sites that AG Communications operates in the country.