Sweden’s online gambling ops fret as gov’t urged to further clip their wings


Sweden’s online gambling operators are pushing back against a government report that advocates for a raft of new restrictions on their locally licensed sites.

On Monday, Sweden’s Ministry of Finance issued a voluminous Gambling Market Inquiry report (English summary starts on page 27), which was commissioned in 2018, ahead of the 2019 launch of the country’s regulated online gambling market. Special investigator Anna-Lena Sörenson, a former Swedish MP, was tasked with overseeing the inquiry.  

Sörenson said the report was a “complex assignment” requiring “difficult trade-offs” between protecting consumers and ensuring “appropriate” regulation of online gambling. But the lobby group representing Sweden’s online licensees has already criticized the report as focusing too much on tying the hands of local operators while doing far less to deter internationally licensed sites. 

The report does recommend a B2B licensing system that would prohibit gambling software firms from offering their products via locally licensed sites if they also allow such products to appear on international sites targeting Swedish customers without local permission. 

The report also recommends that local media be explicitly prohibited from marketing on behalf of international gambling sites. Swedish media grew accustomed to fat checks from international sites prior to the regulated market’s launch and weaning them off this revenue stream has proven difficult. The report also suggests expanding this ban to international media and video platforms. 

But the report also wants to restrict local licensees’ ability to market certain high-risk products outside of a 9pm – 6am window. The Spelinspektionen regulatory body would be tasked with establishing a risk level for all gambling products, with online casino slots and tables the most likely to receive a high-risk designation.   

The report also references the ‘temporary’ online casino weekly deposit limits of SEK5k imposed this summer and which were recently extended through June 30, 2021. The report suggests an SEK5k weekly loss limit be similarly applied — on a permanent basis — to the land-based gaming machines operated by the state-owned Svenska Spel. After “a certain interval,” a review to determine whether to reduce this weekly limit should be conducted.

On the plus side, the report argued against a racing-style mandatory financial contribution to Swedish sports bodies by companies taking bets on their matches. The report notes that the vast majority of bets are taken on international sports, and operators would likely pass on any extra costs of wagering on local sports to bettors. 

Consumer Affairs Minister Ardalan Shekarabi welcomed the report’s recommendations, saying that they would “form an important basis for the government’s forthcoming measures.” 

The Branschföreningen för Onlinespel (BOS) online gambling trade group was less impressed, saying the proposed limits on local licensees would lead to “a deterioration in consumer protection.” BOS secretary-general Gustaf Hoffstedt expressed disappointment that the government appeared more focused on tying the hands of local operators while their international competition got off relatively easy. 

The irony of the government’s proposed regulatory tightening is apparent in new data from the Swedish Quality Index (SKI) on customer satisfaction with and perceived reputation of the gaming industry. The percentage of Swedes with a favorable view of the gaming industry hit 64% in August, up from 57.9% in 2019 and from 55.7% in 2018

That said, there was a marked discrepancy in consumers’ views of the gaming industry as a whole and the company with which they patronized the most. The number of Swedes expressing ‘confidence’ in their favorite operator gained 2.4 points to 65.4%, while those having confidence in the overall industry was up nearly five points, albeit to a comparatively low 39.8%. 

The SKI noted that while the gap between satisfaction with individual operators and the overall industry was “large” compared to other industry sectors. The SKI’s Johan Parmler said this issue “must be taken more seriously” by the major Swedish-licensed operators because this gap “remains at a level that cannot be considered acceptable over time.” 

SKI found that around 20% of non-gamblers agreed with the statement that the gaming sector ‘cares about its customers,’ twice the number that agreed in 2019. Parmler said this gain was likely due to appreciation of operators’ “striving for healthy and less risky gambling.”