Kindred challenges Spelinspektionen penalty on player incentives

Stockholm-listed Kindred Group Plc has become the latest to fall foul of Swedish gambling inspectorate Spelinspektionen’s rules on customer bonusing and incentives.

Spelinspektionen has confirmed that it has issued Kindred a fine totalling SEK 100 million (€9m) following an inspection undertaken across its Swedish brand portfolio.

The regulator stated that Kindred’s flagship Unibet brand, as well as subsidiaries Maria Casino, bingo.com, Storspelare and iGame, had sanctioned a number of ‘unauthorised bonuses’. 

Current Swedish Gambling Act provisions limit online incumbents to offer just one bonus incentive per customer on sign-up.

The Spelinspektionen penalty relates to Kindred brands breaching its incentive codes by offering bonus rewards through in-game mechanics, poker/casino tournament rewards, prize draws and loyalty programmes.

During 2019, Kindred subsidiaries had been previously warned about breaching Spelinspektionen rules related to player incentives. 

Following its warnings, Kindred management moved to eliminate a number of in-game features such as free spins and free plays across its online bingo and casino portfolio.

The operator maintained that the incentives offered to customers could not be recognised as a like-for-like player bonuses, as the rewards held no direct cash value. 

Kindred also stated that the company had undertaken a wholesale review of its Swedish player rewards programme, assessing its approach to player promotions.

Despite Kindred’s pleas, Spelinspektionen has moved to sanction the hefty SEK 100 million fine, enforcing its penalty clause of 10% of a licensee turnover. 

Kindred governance has issued a response, stating that it will challenge Spelinspektionen’s actions and how Gambling Act provisions have been interpreted.

The online group said that its Swedish loyalty programmes and reward mechanism have been independently tested by consumer agencies, who have not flagged any issues.  

A statement read: “Kindred will appeal the SGA’s decision to obtain judicial guidance on how the new legislation should be interpreted. Until recently issued warnings and fines issued to other licence holders are tried in court and enforced, Kindred will continue to adopt a strict interpretation.

“Kindred is of the opinion that the Swedish Gambling Act adopted on 1 January 2019 has been vague in areas related to commercial activities and thereby creating unnecessary ambiguity. Kindred welcomes more clarity in these areas and continues to improve its operations to ensure full compliance.”

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