Sweden split on calls for the ‘moderation of gambling advertising’

Sweden’s Ministry of Finance has published a memorandum proposing that gambling advertising should be forced to carry a ‘moderation warning’, mirroring alcohol advertising.

The amendment would take effect on 1 July 2022 if successfully implemented, and aims to ‘strengthen consumer protection’ by placing ‘higher demands’ on the production of responsible gambling advertising.

Advising the government to amend “the requirement for moderation in the marketing of games to consumers”, as outlined in Sweden’s reformed Gaming Law, the Ministry has recommended that “special moderation” be promoted across all advertising platforms.  

Stressing that the proposed amendment ‘does not constitute a total ban’ on gambling marketing, the Ministry has acknowledged the risk that placing extensive limitations on operators ability to market both themselves and their products could result in licensed firms existing in the Swedish market.

The department has further asserted that the proposal is ‘not expected to have any major consequences for the Swedish gaming market’, as licensed operators can still achieve customer awareness in the market, especially in comparison to unlicensed operators, to whom there is a total ban on advertising.

Additionally, the Ministry has argued that the proposal will have ‘minimum consequences’ for operators with regards to the implementation of marketing campaigns, adding that media channels which generate revenue from gaming advertising will also not be affected.

The memorandum was published as the Ministry’s response to recommendations made by the ‘Gambling Market Inquiry’ ‘Spelmarknadsutredningen’ – carried out by Social Democrat MP Anna-Lena Sörenson during 2020.

As a condition for launching Sweden’s online gambling regime in 2019, the Riksdag ensured that an independent review would be conducted evaluating Sweden’s gambling marketplace following its year-one proceedings.   

The report’s feedback highlighted concerns by Swedish consumer agencies that Swedish broadcast networks had been subject to an ‘aggressive advertising overexposure’ by licensed operators.

Responding to the latest proposal, BOS  the Swedish Trade Association for Online Gambling – criticised the potential amendment of the Gaming Law that would characterise gambling marketing by ‘special moderation’ as opposed to ‘moderation’.

“Swedish-licensed gambling operators have since a peak in 2018-2019 halved their advertising purchases,” said Gustaf Hoffstedt, BOS Chief Executive. “I do not understand how low the investments in marketing must be for the government to be satisfied.

“Gaming advertising from Swedish licensed gambling companies fulfils an important function for a safe and secure gaming market. Advertising strengthens the motivation for gambling consumers to choose Swedish-licensed gambling instead of the alarmingly high proportion of unlicensed gaming. 

“Already today, every fourth gambling krona leaks out of the licensing system when it comes to online casino, and with that, the strong consumer protection also slips away.”

As a means of encouraging ‘face based debate’ around the Swedish gaming industry as the country’s authorities move ahead with gambling regulatory overhauls, four leading Swedish-licensed operators – Betsson, Kindred, William Hill and LeoVegasannounced yesterday the launch of a new site, Fakta om spel (Facts About Gambling), in cooperation with BOS.

The website will include independent information about the Swedish gaming industry, duty of care details, published research and reports and updated statistics on taxation and marketing.

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