Sweden threatens online casino curbs during pandemic lockdown


sweden-threatens-online-casino-curbs-pandemicSweden’s online gambling operators are expressing alarm at the government’s proposal to limit online casino activity during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Earlier this week, local media quoted Sweden’s Social Security Minister Ardalan Shekarabi saying the government was “looking carefully at extraordinary measures to protect Swedish consumers” from the potential negative implications of playing online casino games while on a COVID-19 lockdown in their homes.

Shekarabi was responding to statistics from the Spelinspektionen gambling regulator showing a one-third rise in registrations and log-ins with 17 Swedish-licensed online casino operators in the previous two weeks. Shekarabi said if these figures continue to increase, the government “will take action.”

State-run gambling operator Svenska Spel issued a statement on Thursday taking issue with what analyst Martin Johansson called “misleading statistics.” Johansson noted that registrations didn’t automatically equate to increased online casino play and that the 17 companies cited by Spelinspektionen were “smaller, purely online casino companies and thus it is not a representative selection.”

Svenska Spel’s sustainability manager Kajsa Nylander said her company had seen “marginally increased interest” in online casino, poker and bingo products since the pandemic took hold, but the casino increase was “so low that we cannot currently discern whether it is a corona effect or natural growth.”

Nylander added that, while more customers were using these products, the company wasn’t seeing “a higher average consumption of these games.” Spending per customer on non-betting products “is at the same levels” pre-pandemic.

Sweden’s government should tread very carefully on the issue of limiting online casino play, what with recent statistics showing Sweden’s gamblers were increasingly looking for internationally licensed options and thus reducing the government’s desired ‘channelization’ rate. Any false steps now will only accelerate this reductions.

The lack of traditional sports betting has led to a rise in betting on eSports and virtual products in other markets, and so Spelinspektionen has issued guidance to its licensees regarding “betting on electronically simulated sports events.”

The regulator said betting operators could add these markets without requiring a change of license. However, licensees must inform Spelinspektionen about what new betting markets they’re adding and licensees will also have to review their technical documentation and certificates to ensure they cover the new products on offer.