Operators Strongly Oppose Possible Extension of Swedish Online Casino Restrictions

  • Online casino restrictions were initially put into place because of to the COVID-19 pandemic
  • BOS believes the weekly SEK5,000 deposit cap doesn’t work as gamblers can move to other sites
  • Operators believe that the restrictions don’t protect gamblers and benefit offshore sites
  • Spelinspektionen favors the extension of restrictions, with virus cases rising once more
Two men yelling at each other with megaphones
Online casino operators in Sweden are adamantly opposed to a possible extension to restrictions on their operations because of the COVID-19 pandemic. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

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Online gambling operators strongly oppose the Swedish government’s plan to extend online casino restrictions until June 2021. The reason for the introduction of these temporary restrictions in July was due to concerns about gambling behavior during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

led to gamblers spreading their play across numerous platforms

The Swedish gambling operator association Branscheforenigen för Onlinespel (BOS) has gathered responses from its members on the issue. The feedback generally indicates that the restrictions are not working. For example, the weekly SEK5,000 ($587) cap on deposits at online casinos appears to have led to gamblers spreading their play across numerous platforms. 

The gambling regulator in Sweden, Spelinspektionen, previously explained that it is not possible to enforce the deposit cap across different licensees. This means that players can just use another platform once they reach the SEK5,000 deposit limit with one operator. 

Operators voicing concerns

The government recently launched a consultation to extend the restrictions amid the rising number of virus cases in Sweden. Stakeholders were able to share their thoughts up until November 23.

exactly the opposite of helping players”

A number of operators detailed their grievances about a possible extension. Hero Gaming highlighted that the deposit limit means that operators don’t get as clear a view of player activity as they once did. This impairs player protection efforts, which is “exactly the opposite of helping players,” according to the operator. Videoslots also spoke out against the potential extension to restrictions. A spokesperson said: “The government’s blunt ax is now reducing the effect of the surgical approach chosen by the Riksdag.”

LeoVegas suggested that the government should focus on targeting offshore operators rather than restricting the legal sector. It proposed that the Spelinspektionen immediately start handing out warnings to unlicensed operators and begin implementing payment blocking measures. There were also suggestions for the government to look at blocking IP addresses and for the tax authorities to prioritize cases where players win large sums from offshore sites.

Adding to the list of complaints, the Kindred Group argued that the continuing restrictions completely contradict the aims of the Gambling Act and only benefit offshore operators. Kindred Group CEO Henrik Tjärnström believes that there is no notable connection between problem gambling rates and the pandemic. 

Varying viewpoints

While operators are not happy with a possible extension, there are differing views elsewhere. The BOS believes that there is no justification for an extension. It also suggests that many problem gamblers could move over to offshore online casinos as a result of these strict measures.

Spelinspektionen sided with the government, as it believes that the original circumstances leading to the introduction of the restrictions are still in place. Therefore, the gambling regulator thinks that there is justification for keeping these measures until June 2021. 

The restrictions have led to a decrease in gambling spend, with LeoVegas’ revenues during the third quarter falling 20%. However, problem gambling rates remain the same.

Earlier in November, Minister for Social Security Ardalan Shekarabi announced the government plan to extend the restrictions until June 2021. These measures include the deposit limit, a SEK100 ($11.73) limit on bonus offers, and mandatory time limits on playing sessions. The initial expiration date for the restrictions was the end of 2020.

When originally introducing these measures, the government worried about gambling behavior while people were out of work and at home during the COVID-19 pandemic. Therefore, the aim was to protect these people by implementing restrictions. Sweden is currently experiencing a second, significant wave of virus cases.