Sweden’s Branscheforenigen för Onlinespel (BOS) has urged the government to withdraw its proposals to extend current restrictions on the online gaming industry.
Yesterday, the Minister for Social Insurance Ardalan Shekarabi highlighted his concerns of ‘continued risks in the area of gambling’, confirming that the government has opened a consultation on extending the ‘temporary restrictions’ on the industry until 30 June 2021.
Responding to Shekarabi’s proposals, BOS has hit back at the government’s ‘erroneous’ claim that more players have used online casinos during the pandemic, and has demanded that the memorandum is withdrawn.
“There is nothing as permanent as a political promise of something temporary,” said Gustaf Hoffstedt, Secretary General of BOS. “The temporary restrictions introduced this summer were justified by an alleged increase in online casinos. That did not turn out to be the case.
“Online casinos stood still, and sports betting decreased dramatically due to canceled matches. Instead, it was games on horses that increased dramatically.
“This was known to all players in the gaming market, such as the Swedish Gaming Inspectorate, us and the government, but unfortunately the government persisted in the erroneous claim that online casinos would have increased and that special restrictions were therefore called for that form of gaming. Betting on horses, on the other hand, was left protected from restrictions.”
The proposals, which have been submitted for consultation until 23 November 2020, include an extension to the SEK 5,000 deposit limit for games at online casinos as well as time limits on play and SEK 100 limit on bonus offers.
At the time of implementing the original restrictions, which were introduced on 2 July 2020, the Swedish government specified that both sports betting and horse racing would be exempt from the lockdown restrictions.
In July, the Swedish regulator cautioned against the restrictions, stating that the SEK 5,000 deposit limit would have a ‘marginal effect’ on reducing the number of players gambling during the pandemic.
In addition, it warned that players will have access to fewer consumer protection measures if they were to gamble via unlicensed operators – something which becomes more likely if deposit and time limits were imposed.
Hoffstedt continued: “It is unfortunately only to state that the government is now making a double mistake when it with the same erroneous claims about increased online casino gambling extends the restrictions.
“The consequences of the restrictions are twofold. On the one hand, high-volume players jump between more and more gaming companies to avoid the deposit limit. This makes it difficult for an individual gaming company to get an overall picture of a player’s behaviour, which is a prerequisite for being able to take protective measures in the event of suspected problem gambling.
“On the one hand, the high-volume players are leaving the Swedish licensing system in favour of the unregulated gaming market, where there are no deposit limits. Even before the first restrictions were introduced this summer, the leakage from the Swedish licensing system was 25 percent for online casinos.
“What the leak is today and what will happen to the extended restriction is a scary thought. The government throws the Swedish gaming consumers out of the licensing system in the wolves’ gap where consumer protection is zero,” Hoffstedt concluded.