Swedish media outlets got a whole lot fatter on unauthorized online gambling advertising cash last year, despite efforts by regulators to clamp down on the activity.
Sifo Advertising Measurements and Dagens Media recently released a new analysis of gambling advertising spending in Sweden, which showed overall spending of SEK 5.5b (US$684.5m) in 2017, up significantly from 2016’s SEK 3.8b and a new market record.
Kindred Group and its flagship Unibet brand led all operators with total ad spending of SEK 442m last year, 12% higher than the company spent in 2016. Online casino operator LeoVegas ranked second with SEK 313m, up a hefty 83% year-on-year.
Lennart Käll, CEO of state-owned gambling operator Svenska Spel, struck his reliably irascible tone, saying the figures supported his long-held view that Sweden’s gambling environment was “the wild west right now.”
Sweden’s Lotteriinspektionen gaming regulatory agency has been attempting to rein in unauthorized gambling advertising for years now, but its efforts got a boost last October when Sweden’s Supreme Administrative Court ordered local media outlets to observe the ban on accepting advertising revenue from unauthorized gaming operators.
In December, Lotteriinspektionen publicly warned the publisher of the Metro free daily newspaper to purge unauthorized gambling adverts or feel the regulator’s wrath. That prompted editorial pushback from Gustaff Hoffstedt, leader of Branschföreningen för Onlinespel, the association of Swedish online gambling operators.
Hoffstedt and Per Hultengård, chief legal officer of the Swedish Media Publishers’ Association (TU), penned a joint op-ed assailing Lotteriinspektionen’s Metro missive as “a threat to our democracy,” given that advertising dollars allow media outlets to “conduct independent journalistic work” that serves the greater public.
In response, Lotteriinspektionen chairman Per Håkansson and director general Camilla Rosenberg defended the advertising ban, saying it was intended to “counter gaming activities that are not in line with the purpose of game regulation.” The duo also wondered “in what other area of jurisdiction can an industry give itself the liberty of violating existing legislation with reference to new legislation that has not yet been decided?”
The Lotteriinspektionen leaders noted that Sweden is in the final stages of revamping its online gambling market, and warned operators who continue to flout the advertising restrictions that they could find their applications for new Swedish online licenses shuffled to the bottom of the pile.