Sweden requires bigger regulatory objectives to balance gambling marketplace

A deep dive on the prospects and realities of Sweden’s regulated online gambling marketplace opened the ‘Key Markets’ track on day one of the CasinoBeats Summit Malta.

“Three years on from its re-regulation in 2019, Swedish gambling has faced perhaps the toughest balancing act of any European marketplace in the context of its liberalisation and regulation.”

This was an observation made by Gustaf Hoffstedt, Secretary-General of Swedish online gambling trade association Branschföreningen för Onlinespel (BOS), who opened the panel’s discussion.

Forced to accommodate year-on-year regulatory enforcements on online casino player loss limits, bonus restrictions and advertising, Hoffstedt questioned whether licensed incumbents had lost “faith in the Swedish project”.

“That really depends on who you are asking,” responded Robert Andersson, CEO of igaming media publishing group Acroud.

As a market veteran, Andersson observed that “the regulations imposed now favour a benefit of scale, these conditions point to a continuous consolidation of the marketplace”.

He added: “For Sweden’s big beasts they should be able to thrive in these restrictive conditions as the smaller players will be weeded out.”

Irrespective of conditions favouring Sweden’s larger igaming incumbents, Andersson implied that Sweden’s regulatory actors now faced the reality of governing an ‘unbalanced regime’, in which channelisation has come under threat.   

“There are countries that have worked much harder on protecting channelisation than Sweden. I hope that Shekarabi and his ministers get their eyes on this problem sooner than later,” he continued.

Andersson’s remarks led Hoffstedt to question the industry’s continued conflict with the government’s policies formed by Social Security’s Minister Ardalan Shekarabi.

On channelisation, Hoffstedt outlined that since 2019’s re-regulation channelisation figures for online casino had dropped from 95-to-75%. He asked: “Do we accept a market where every fourth Korna is lost to the black market?”

“We are met by another unbalanced issue,” cited Nordic gaming figurehead Jesper Kärrbrink, Chairman of Green Jade Games and former CEO of MrGreen and Svenska Spel.

 “I have followed market protections closely for the past three years, and let’s just say that licensed operators are in a bizarre situation.”

Whilst requiring licensed actors to accommodate year-on-year compliance adjustments, Kärrbrink noted that the government had made no attempt to adopt a “mandate for regulator Spelinspektionen to tackle the black market”.

He said: “There is nothing in the legislation for Spelinspektionen to tackle the black market, and they are not instructed to do so. We, therefore, have a regulated market in which there is no regulatory focus on what the black market is doing.”

Kärrbrink shared his frustration that the government had chosen ‘blanket tactics’ to govern the gambling industry over a collaborative approach with licensed stakeholders to tackle the market complexities of player and consumer protections.

“Everyone knows that a marketing ban will do nothing. We need to get serious on protecting the 2% of vulnerable players… and this requires the government to really understand the maths of gambling and the attractiveness of its games.”

Despite his criticism, Kärrbrink underscored that Swedish online gambling could still be the regulatory leader for other European jurisdictions to follow, should the government tackle the tough discipline of ‘player affordability’.

He concluded: “Through our national ID scheme, Sweden can create a ‘national affordability platform for gambling. We are one of the few countries that has that inter-connectivity between the tax authorities, banks and business to do so.

“Protecting consumers through affordability are the big projects that should be pursued, over governance by blanket-by-blanket measures.”

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