Following deliberations, the Administrative Court in Linköping, Sweden, has rejected appeals from three separate operators.
Online casino providers Casinostugan, ComeOn and Snabbare, were appealing to the court to overturn fines levied against them for duty of care failures, and each case was rejected ‘in their entirety’ by the court on 28 April.
A fourth firm, Hajper, was treated with slightly more leniency than the others, although only in the sense that its sanction fee was reduced from SEK 50 million (€4.7m) to SEK 40 million (€3.8m).
The court asserted that the companies had provided illicit bonuses by making cash deposits and had also provided free games, and had also breached their duty of care by providing bonuses at the same time there were indications of ‘risky gambling’.
“The Administrative Court finds that the violations are serious,” a statement from Spelinspektionen, the Swedish Gambling Inspectorate, read.
“The penalty fees for Casinostugan, ComeOn and Snabbare, are judged to be reasonable and proportionate. In view of certain mitigating circumstances, the Administrative Court considers that there is reason to reduce the sanction fee for Hajper decided by the Swedish Gaming Inspectorate.”
The Inspectorate’s initial judgements against the four companies in question were all made in 2021 due to concerns relating to bonuses, after which the appeals were launched.
In the case against Hajper, the regulator found that the company had ‘offered free games to gaming customers on at least six different occasions between 11 January 2019 and 4 April 2019’.
Assuming that the operator had violated the provisions of Swedish gambling law by offering bonuses and free games to its customers, the Inspectorate issued Hajper with a warning and a SEK 50 million fine.
Snabbare, meanwhile, was found to have been offering ‘cash gifts and free spins’ to its customers, and in its assessment by the Spelinspektionen argued that had been done within the scope of Swedish regulation.
Concluding its investigation, the Inspectorate found that free spins do constitute bonuses under Swedish law, and fined the company SEK 65 million (€6 million).
Casinostugan was also found to have offered cash bonuses and free spins, and so was fined SEK 25 million (€2.3m) – the difference in fine between the two companies being based on their revenues at the time of the separate incidents.
Lastly, ComeOn Sweden also gave its customers ‘cash gifts’, but maintained that these monetary gifts could not be directly linked to their games, and could not be classed as a discount or financial incentive as ‘they were not associated with any form of demand for consideration from the customer’.
In its assessment, the Inspectorate concluded that ComeOn group had violated the bonus restrictions and its duty of care, and cited that a customer had informed them that they had ‘lost a lot of money in a short time’ whilst playing with the firm but still received a financial gift or ‘bonus’.
As with the other companies, the Inspectorate issued the operator with a warning alongside a penalty fee, which in this case stood at SEK 35,000,000 (€3.3m).