Swedish Government to Investigate Illegal Online Gambling Activity

  • The inquiry will focus on combating match-fixing and the supervision of illegal gambling
  • Sweden's director general of the Chamber of Commerce will head the investigation
  • The Swedish Gambling Authority will also introduce new match-fixing measures in January 2021
  • Tensions are currently high between operators and the government over pandemic restrictions
map zoomed in on Sweden
The Swedish Government has launched a new inquiry into match-fixing and other illegal gambling activities in the country. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

A two-pronged inquiry

Sweden’s government has launched a new inquiry into the country’s illegal online gambling market. Focusing on two main areas, the investigation will assess the efficacy of efforts to supervise illegal offshore gambling activity and combat match-fixing.

Gunnar Larsson, director general of the Swedish Chamber of Commerce, will head the campaign. His duties will include finding any issues with the current processes of regulatory bodies and suggesting solutions for improvement.

The investigation will focus in part on issues the Swedish Gambling Authority (SGA) has raised regarding the blocking of payments for unlicensed gambling. Larsson’s work on match-fixing will mainly center on increasing dialogue between the affected parties, namely the SGA, sporting bodies, and gambling companies.

New match-fixing rules for 2021

The inquiry is not the first time Swedish authorities have taken action against match-fixing this year. The SGA also finalized a string of new measures in September, which it plans to introduce in 2021.

a ban on all betting markets relating to rule violations

Starting January 1, 2021, the SGA will place a ban on all betting markets relating to rule violations within soccer games. These will include yellow cards, red cards, and penalties. Bettors will also be unable to wager on soccer games outside of the top four Swedish soccer divisions.

Despite the SGA’s belief that such measures will benefit Sweden’s legal betting market, the country’s online gambling trade association, Branschföreningen för Onlinespel (BOS), disagrees. Gustaf Hoffstedt, secretary-general of the BOS, warned that the restrictive policy could even increase the risk of match-fixing.

Current Swedish tensions

In Sweden, COVID-19 has stoked tensions between online casino operators and regulatory authorities. In an effort to combat problem gambling amid the pandemic, the government has introduced temporary restrictions for online casino customers, such as a maximum bonus offer limit of SEK100 ($11.71) and a weekly deposit limit of SEK5,000 ($585.46). Recently, the government proposed extending them to June 30, 2021.

black market is profiting from a growing customer base

The BOS has been vocal in its opposition to such an extension. Hoffstedt stated on the group’s website that the restrictions are increasing the number of customers opening accounts on multiple betting sites with the aim of bypassing the said limits. Meanwhile, the black market is profiting from a growing customer base, he added.

Despite the BOS’s criticism of COVID-19 restrictions, the group welcomed the Swedish Government’s new inquiry. “[T]he Government appear to have understood and accepted policy standpoints that the industry has been highlighting as flaws in the Swedish gambling regulation,” Hoffstedt commented.

Since the market’s re-regulation in January last year, a number of Swedish operators have been critical of the SGA. Criticism has focused on two aspects of the regulator’s policy making. Over the course of 2019, the SGA handed out 18 fines to gaming companies. Many have blamed this on a lack of dialogue between the SGA and its operators. Meanwhile, industry executives have also criticized the SGA’s channelization efforts, which have not met targets since re-regulation.