On Friday, Sweden’s Patent and Market Court upheld all 20 complaints brought against Global Gaming subsidiary Elec Games by the country’s Consumer Ombudsman (KO). The watchdog had taken exception to Ninja Casino’s online and offline promotional efforts, including claims of speedy withdrawals of winnings and suggestions that customers could “take home millions” by gambling with the site.
Sweden’s online gambling regulations contain a vague requirement for licensees to exercise ‘moderation’ in advertising material and the Court found that Ninja Casino’s promos had fallen short of that mark through the use of ‘intrusive’ pop-up ads and exhortations for customers to “Play Now!”
Court chairman Alexander Ramsay said “there is a link between gambling advertising and gambling problems and [the Court] has paid special attention to how marketing is perceived” by vulnerable individuals. Companies that fail to exercise moderation in future will be subject to fines of up to SEK500k (US$52k) per incident.
Ardalan Shekarabi, Sweden’s Minister for Social Security, called the ruling a “great victory,” saying “now no gaming company can blame that [advertising guidelines are] unclear, now we have a very clear clarification on what is allowed.” Shekarabi has previously threatened to ban all online gambling advertising if operators proved unwilling to police themselves.
Global Gaming CEO Tobias Fagerlund welcomed Friday’s ruling, in part because it had no impact on his company’s operations. Ninja Casino’s Swedish license was revoked in June for social responsibility shortcomings, leading to a 76% fall in the company’s Q3 revenue.
Fagerlund added that advertising clarity was “a step in the right direction,” although he said it was “unfortunate that our brand alone should be made responsible for marketing messages that were widely used” at the time. Fagerlund said his company’s attorneys were studying the ruling to determine if there was any reason for an appeal.
Gustaf Hoffstedt, secretary-general of the Branschföreningen för onlinespel (BOS) online gambling trade group, also celebrated the ruling, saying his group’s members “do not want to see” promos that focus on claims of fast payments.
Sweden’s regulated online gambling market has been a minefield for licensees since its launch on January 1, but that hasn’t stopped operators from pursuing local licenses. This week, the Spelinspektionen regulatory body issued a new license to Romix Limited, which plans to offer both online casino and sports betting via its Campobet and YoyoCasino brands.