Sweden’s domestic gambling operators struggled mightily in 2018, the final year before the market opened up to international online competitors.
Figures released this week by Sweden’s Spelinspektionen regulatory body show the country’s overall gambling market was worth SEK23.4b (US$2.5b) in 2018, a modest 1.5% gain over 2017’s result. Online revenue was up 12.2% last year – online casino up 13.7% and sports betting up 11.5% — accounting for 52% of the overall total, while land-based operations fell nearly 8%.
Sweden’s domestic operators claimed the bulk (SEK16.7b) of 2018’s revenue pie, but this represented a 2.3% year-on-year decline. The state-owned former betting monopoly Svenska Spel reported sales falling 2.2% to SEK8.8b, as a one-fifth rise in online revenue failed to offset the nearly 10% decline in the firm’s land-based operations.
Similarly, the ATG horseracing betting monopoly reported overall sales of SEK4.1b, a 1.5% year-on-year decline. ATG’s land-based operations were down 10.7%, while online activity rose 5.2%.
Sweden’s new liberalized online gambling market launched on January 1, 2019, but the internationally licensed online operators who served the Swedish market in 2018 reported sales of SEK6.7b, a year-on-year rise of 12.4%. These international sites accounted for 29% of Sweden’s overall market in 2018, up nearly five points from 2017.
The country’s various lottery operations were mostly negative last year, led by the Postcode Lottery’s sales falling 2.7% to SEK2b. Only the Folkspel lottery was in positive territory, rising 3% to SEK673m.
Sweden’s newly licensed online operators were recently given until the end of March to demonstrate a “noticeable change” in their promotional activities or Minister for Civil Affairs Ardalan Shkarabi has promised to lower the regulatory boom.
Sweden’s gambling legislation requires operators to engage in “moderate” advertising and, while this requirement was always somewhat vague, Swedish consumers have so far been thoroughly unimpressed with licensees’ interpretation of their obligations.
Spelinspektionen has invited all Swedish-licensed operators to attend an April 2 meeting with the regulator and Sweden’s Consumer Agency in the hopes of achieving “an increased understanding” on the advertising issue. The regulator has promised that coffee will be served, but operators may wish to bring along a paid taster just in case.