Sweden’s Minister for Health and Social Affairs Ardalan Shekarabi has proposed a SEK5,000 (£401/€459/$495) mandatory weekly deposit and a SEK100 cap on bonus offers from 1 June until the end of 2020 as the country battles the novel coronavirus (Covid-19).
Shekarabi also said mandatory limits on playing time will be introduced, while the government is also looking into return-to-player (RTP) restrictions.
The restrictions will also apply to video lottery terminals (VLTs), with the country’s relatively relaxed restrictions on social activity during the virus meaning that some land-based gaming facilities remain still open.
Gustaf Hoffstedt, secretary general of Sweden’s online gambling trade association Branschföreningen för Onlinespel, told iGB that the measures were likely to lead to more players moving to the unlicensed market.
“I am very concerned over the fact that this will accelerate the leakage from the Swedish licensing system to unlicensed sites,” Hoffstedt said. “We already have a problematic level of approximately 25% leakage when it comes to online casino, and with these governmental measures it will only get worse.”
The proposal will undergo a referral process, which ends on 7 May and will allow stakeholders to provide input, before coming into effect. However, Hoffstedt said the referral process is expected to be very short and that changes to regulations during such a process tend to be unlikely.
In addition, Sweden’s gaming authority (Spelinspektionen) will produce monthly reports until 1 September on recent developments, enforcement measures against unlicensed gambling sites and measures taken to strengthen consumer protection.
Spelinspektionen will also be tasked with expanding national self-exclusion register Spelpaus to the land-based market as well as online.
Now there will be an even clearer focus on gaming responsibility and the fight against illegal gambling. We make immediate adjustments to the organization in order to meet the new demands placed on the authority, ”SPelinspektionen director general Camilla Rosenberg said.
The Swedish market has been characterised by a particularly strict approach to enforcing regulations opening its regulated igaming market 1 January, 2019.
In July 2019, for example, after a series of fines for Swedish operators for apparently offering odds on sporting events featuring a majority of participants under the age of 18, BOS requested an urgent meeting with Spelinspektionen for greater clarity on regulations. The regulator, however, said that operators were simply “unaccustomed” to its regulatory approach.
BOS later attacked the regulator’s approach to tackling illegal activity in the market, claiming that its strict approach to enforcement of regulations on licensed operators was not being matched by efforts to stamp out unlicensed gambling.
In February, Spelinspektionen put forward an amendment to the country’s gaming rules that would see operators prohibited from offering odds on rule violations, such as a yellow card in football or a fault in tennis.
This drew criticism from BOS and the IBIA, while H2 Gambling Capital pointed out that the Spelinspektionen-licensed commercial online betting channelling rate could fall as low as 70% (an 11% reduction).
Elsewhere in Europe, Latvia has banned all online gambling while it remains in a state of emergency because of the virus, after the country’s regulator gained legal clarification on an intially ambigious bill.
Portugal’s Parliament, meanwhile, passed a bill earlier this month demanding that the government takes some sort of action to restrict online gambling during the pandemic.