Swedish leadership hits back at Shekarabi’s ‘torpedo orders’

The Chief Executives of Sweden’s leading online gambling businesses have written to the government urging for the suspension of temporary deposit restrictions sanctioned by the Ministry of Health & Social Affairs.

A letter co-signed by Pontus Lindwall (Betsson), Henrik Tjärnström (Kindred Group), Gustaf Hagman (LeoVegas), Therese Hillman (NetEnt AB) and Ulrik Bengtsson (William Hill Plc / Mr Green) – urged the government to decline Minister of Health Ardalan Shekarabi’s social order.

Last week, citing further protection for Swedish health networks to cope with the ongoing coronavirus crisis, Shekarabi enforced a series of online gambling restrictions – to be established for the remainder of 2020.

From 1 June, Swedish gambling inspectorate Spelinspektionen will enforce a temporary SEK 5,000 (€480) weekly deposit limit across all online gambling verticals.

Further restrictions see Swedish operators forced to lower their welcome bonus offer to a blanket €100. On top of deposit and bonus restrictions, Shekarabi has advised Spelinspektionen to further limit casino play return-to-player mechanisms.

In response, Swedish leadership has lambasted Shekarabi actions, stating that they are counterproductive to the mandate of Sweden’s reformed Gambling Act and that the effect of restrictions will damage Swedish consumer protections in the short and long term.

“Every company, regardless of industry, wants to be where the customers are,” reads the letter. “If the customers leave, the companies will follow suit.”

“The Swedish gambling market not only provides safety and security to players but also contributes billions annually in much-needed tax revenue and investment in sports.”

“By slowly eroding the Swedish gaming market month by month, the government risks bringing about major cuts in security, tax revenue, and societal investment.”

Swedish leaders have accused Shekarabi of seeking to ‘torpedo’ gambling legislation that he personally drafted in 2017/2018, during his tenure as  Minister of Civil Affairs.

The letter reminds the government that Swedish Parliament had voted to reform the nation’s gambling laws, as means to ‘take control of the market’ and terminate the presence of unlicensed actors.

Shekarabi restrictions are therefore counterproductive to the core mandate of the Gambling Act – “Parliament’s preferred method of effective gambling market control is channelling, i.e. regulating what percentage of Swedish consumers choose to play with Swedish-licenced companies”.

Sweden’s Minister for Health is also accused of hijacking the coronavirus outbreak to impose industry restrictions without evidence. The CEOs detail that Shekarabi is fully aware of licensed incumbents’ current plight against the black market, in which Sweden’s regulated marketplace has failed to meet its desired customer channelling target rate.

Swedish leaders point to a recent independent study, undertaken by research firm Copenhagen Economics, which cites that between 72% and 78% of casino players channelled to legal sites – a figure well below Spelinspektionen expectations.

The letter concluded: “The purpose of the re-regulation, which had broad support in the Swedish Parliament, was to create a more sustainable gambling market that functioned well in the long term.

“The minister is about to create a “Wild West 2.0” in the gambling market, and he’s doing it in the name of consumer protection. It is now clear to us that Ardalan Shekarabi does not share our ambition to create a sustainable and safe gambling market since his latest proposal is perhaps the best advertisement yet for players to abandon licensed companies in favour of the black market.”

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