Sweden’s online gambling industry has endured a turbulent period since legislation to re-regulate the market came into force at the beginning of 2019. We spoke to Fredrik Wastenson, CEO Svenska Spel Sport & Casino, for his take on events.
Ahead of his appearance on the Nordics – Navigating Risky Waters in Uncertain Times panel at Betting on Sports 2019, the head of the state-owned operator shared his thoughts on the impact of the new regulatory regime, the role of Spelinspektionen and how Svenska Spel can compete against international operators now targeting the Swedish market.
SBC: Can you detail your impressions of Sweden’s first six months as a re-regulated online gambling marketplace?
Fredrik Wastenson: There were two key objectives with the re-regulation of the Swedish gambling market. First of all, the government wanted to regain control over consumer protection issues as there were too many non-regulated companies in the market with insufficient focus on responsible gaming issues. Secondly, the government wanted to force online operators to obtain a Swedish licence so that more than 90% of gambling is with a regulated business.
Reviewing the first six months of the re-regulated market, we can clearly see that these objectives have been fulfilled, supported by strong actions from the gambling authorities to secure compliance with consumer protection.
The downside of this has, unfortunately, been a negative discussion in the press with a lot of focus on the negative side of gambling, which has led to a great loss of reputation for the industry. Adding to this, some operators have accused competitors of misconduct or non-compliance, which has only given more fuel to the fire of the portrayal of a non-trustworthy industry.
The financial consequences of this are clear with a total market loss somewhere in the area of 15% in revenues compared to last year.
SBC: Do you agree with the industry’s perception that regulator Spelinspektionen has become somewhat ‘trigger-happy’ in disciplining operators?
FW: I would not call it ‘trigger happy’. I don’t think that the gambling authority really has an option other than to be quite active in their review of the regulations and how well companies are compliant with the law.
If there is not a perception from the operators that the law is clear and equal for all, that will most certainly lead to a degeneration of the percentage of legal companies in the market. It has to be clear to everyone that there is no advantage in being overly creative in the interpretation of the law.
SBC: Over 120 licences have been approved to operate by Spelinspektionen; does this figure point towards an over saturation of a new marketplace?
FW: It does indeed, although you could argue that the number of licences demonstrates success in driving the market into regulation. However, I anticipate a high degree of consolidation in the near future, combined with a lot of companies that will either disappear or leave the market, because it will be too difficult to compete and earn money.
SBC: How does Svenska Spel plan to compete against the major international operators who have entered the Swedish market?
FW: Svenska Spel has a strong position in the market and a history of being a trustworthy party, with a lot of focus on responsible gaming and giving back money to sports, in particular, and to society in general.
We also have a strong position in the sports market with our unique pool offerings. Stryktipset (Goal 13) has a history that goes back more than 80 years and we still see an increase in customers and revenues. Our liquidity from the pool games attracts a lot of customers with a spill-over effect for betting.
SBC: Why did you want to speak at Betting on Sports?
FW: We operate in a global world that is constantly changing, with a lot of new innovations and a continuous need for digital transformation, so we need to stay up to date with global trends and ongoing discussions in the industry. It is therefore greatly important for us to actively participate in an event like Betting on Sports, which attracts the key players in the industry.
Betting on Sports 2019 takes place at Olympia London this week and features 300 expert speakers across 13 content tracks, along with 120 exhibitors and a range of unique networking events at high-profile London venues. Fredrik Wastenson will be a panel member for the Nordics – Navigating Risky Waters in Uncertain Times session, which is part of the European Markets track on 18 September.