Sweden’s online gambling operators are offering rare praise for the government after it announced plans to target their internationally licensed competitors.
On Monday, Sweden’s Ministry of Finance announced that Gunnar Larsson, director-general of Sweden’s Chamber of Commerce, had been appointed to head an inquiry into how the country might more proactively discourage internationally licensed online gambling operators from targeting local customers without permission of the Spelinspektionen regulatory agency.
In announcing the appointment, Social Security Minister Ardalan Shekarabi said “increased efforts are needed” to steer online gamblers to locally licensed sites, in part to ensure better protection for problem gamblers but also to “protect the serious players in the gambling market from unfair competition.”
Some of those serious Swedish players might argue that they need more protection from the government, which hobbled their online casino operations this summer with ‘temporary’ limits on deposit and bonus offers. Swedish-licensed operators are currently protesting the government’s proposal to extend these limits past their original end date through June 30, 2021.
Larsson will be tasked with identifying obstacles and proposing solutions for “more effective supervision” of unauthorized gambling, including following up on Spelinspektionen’s concerns regarding “application difficulties with payment blocking.”
Larsson will also be tasked with how to strengthen efforts to combat match-fixing, in part by facilitating greater “opportunity for collaboration” between Spelinspektionen and its licensees. This could include “measures to remove any obstacles to appropriate information sharing between all relevant actors.”
The government is undoubtedly reacting to recent surveys that show few Swedish gamblers understand how to distinguish between locally licensed and internationally licensed sites. Even those who can are unsure of the supposed benefits of patronizing locally approved operators.
Spelinspektionen director-general Camilla Rosenberg welcomed the government’s announcement, saying the tools the regulator currently possessed to deal with unauthorized competition and match-fixing “are not sufficient.”
The Branschföreningen för Onlinespel (BOS) online gambling trade group also welcomed Monday’s news, although secretary-general Gustaf Hoffstedt noted with some bitterness that the government has so far seemed more preoccupied with imposing “repressive measures” against Swedish-licensed operators while international competitors “have in practice been left alone.”
Hoffstedt further noted that international operators serving Swedish punters “generally do not violate Swedish law, despite a rhetoric that claims the opposite.” Hoffstedt wants to see the government pass laws making it expressly illegal for these operators’ Swedish-facing operations to continue.