Pandemic Restrictions on Swedish Online Casinos Could Be Extended

The Swedish government is considering a proposal to extend previously implemented restrictions on the country’s online gambling industry in light of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, news emerged late last week.

A temporary ordinance mandating locally licensed online casino and sports betting operators to follow certain requirements aimed at reducing the risks of gambling during the pandemic is set to expire at the end of of June. If lawmakers approve its extension, its provisions will be valid through November 14, 2021.

The measures were first enforced last July and were originally intended to last through the end of 2020. However, Swedish lawmakers have extended them several times since the summer of 2020. As mentioned earlier, after the latest extension, the temporary ordinance was supposed to expire in mid-2021, but since the rate of new infections remains high in Sweden, legislators believe the measures should stay in place for several more months.

The restrictions are spearheaded by the country’s Minister of Social Insurance, Ardalan Shekarabi, a vocal supporter of a more restrictive gambling regime. Minister Shekarabi said last week that the ongoing Covid-19 situation entails great risk for consumers in the gaming market” and that they “therefore need to act to reduce the risks for the most vulnerable consumers.”

Trade Body Protests Measures

The temporary ordinance introduced a SEK5,000 (approx. $583.63) monthly cap on online casino deposits that could remain in place until mid-November, if it gets extended. A corresponding monthly loss limit applies to physical gambling machines.

In addition, players must set limits on playing time both at online casinos and physical establishments. And lastly, locally licensed gambling operators are not allowed to offer online casino bonuses exceeding SEK100 (approx. $11.67).

The possible (and likely) extension of the measures was heavily protested by BOS, the Swedish Trade Association for Online Gambling that represents locally licensed operators. The trade body’s General Secretary, Gustaf Hoffstedt, said that the restrictions will have a negative impact on channelization and Swedish gambling customers will thus “lose out on the consumer protection that the Swedish Parliament has decided will apply in our country” when the market was reorganized in early 2019.

Mr. Hoffstedt referred to a recent report by the Swedish Agency for Public Management that said the number of Swedish gamblers who opt for unlicensed international online casinos and betting sites has remained “alarmingly high” and that “the leakage for online casinos is particularly high, where as much as every fourth gaming krona is played outside the Swedish licensed market.”

The BOS General Secretary further noted that the Swedish government is apparently unaware of its own expert agency’s findings and that extending restrictions that are disapproved by players is “to ask for continued problems for the channeling into the licensed market.”

Source: Proposal for extended measures to reduce the risks in the gaming market as a result of the outbreak of Covid-19, Swedish Parliament Official Website, April 9, 2021

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