Sweden’s private online gambling operators have asked the country’s consumer watchdog to punish the state-run former gambling monopoly Svenska Spel for violating advertising rules.
On Thursday, the Branschföreningen för onlinespel (BOS) online gambling trade group formally submitted a complaint to the Consumer Ombudsman (KO) accusing Svenska Spel and the TV4 network of violating the country’s new Gambling Act.
In May, BOS filed a complaint with Sweden’s media watchdog regarding a TV4 morning show that features a regular segment in which guests are invited to play Svenska Spel’s instant-win lottery products.
Guests are quizzed on what they’d do if they struck it rich but the segments contain no messaging regarding responsible gambling or the fact that lottery products are restricted to those 18 years or older, as required under Sweden’s new Gambling Act, which took effect on January 1.
BOS maintains that, given the prominence with which Svenska Spel’s logo and products were displayed, the TV4 segments were “clearly promotional” in nature. BOS also claims that the channel “never presents losers but only winners,” in violation of the Marketing Act’s requirement that any gambling promo “does not exaggerate the opportunities for profit.”
BOS general secretary Gustaf Hoffstedt said the fact that Svenska Spel was owned by the state made its transgressions all the more “outrageous.” Unless the KO acts swiftly and with authority, Hoffstedt warned that private operators would be emboldened to similarly “hide their advertising in editorial collaboration” with media outlets.
Advertising in Sweden’s newly regulated online gambling market has been a particularly sore spot for the government. In April, Sweden’s minister for public administration Ardalan Shekarabi announced the formation of a commission to determine whether to impose “a total or partial ban on gambling advertising.”
This week, Shekarabi was in Italy, a country that recently imposed extremely limiting gambling advertising rules. Shekarabi publicly praised Italy’s stance via his social media accounts, saying he had “an interesting view” of Italy’s stance, and the fact that the country had “stood up” to its gambling sector. Will Sweden’s government now stand up to its own gambling operation?