With 95 active gaming licenses in the country the Swedish Gambling Inspectorate (Spelinspektionen), has released gambling revenue numbers for the industry in Q3 2021. The numbers are preliminary and may be adjusted slightly before the year-end report but current net sales, total bets minus payouts, are up about 5% over the same third-quarter period ending September 30 last year.
On a quarterly basis, the legally sanctioned gambling industry posted net earnings of SEK 6.3 billion (US$698,621,490).
While the three-month number was down slightly compared to the current year’s second-quarter sales of 6.5B, volume was up 5% from the third quarter of 2020 showing a marked improvement in the market.
Leading the increase was the online sector that includes remote betting and online casino games with SEK 3.9B in net sales, or about 62% of the total (SEK 61.9%).
Retail Gambling up 800% Over Last Year
While these numbers show that commercial online gambling remains strong in Sweden, another sector was responsible for the most growth, and that was commercial land-based gambling. In-person gambling sales rose nearly eight-fold for the quarter compared to the same period one year ago as well as a nearly 39% increase over the previous year’s, pre-pandemic third-quarter sales.
Explaining the 61.9% market share of online commercial gambling is perhaps the fact that 65 of the 95 Swedish operators who hold licenses in the country operate in the online sector, which is closely aligned with a proportional amount of sales.
Bingo, slot machines in restaurants, and lottery sales promoted for the public benefit held their numbers compared to the same period last year but were down slightly from the second quarter. National lottery sales were down quarter to quarter this year as well from SEK 9.4 M on Q2 to SEK 8.0M in the period ending September 30.
Getting Back to Normal
Year-on-year numbers, as well as increases in 3rd quarter activity, can almost certainly be explained by consumer behavior related to the pandemic, whether those activities were entirely self-determined or not. While Sweden did not institute any nationwide lockdowns in response to the health emergency, social distancing policies were encouraged as was working from home.
Gamblers were not locked down at home, which could have led to a greater increase in online gambling, but restrictions were temporarily placed on the sector in an attempt to mitigate any potential consumer harm from gambling in the modified environment.
Sweden’s Social Securities Minister, Ardalan Shekarabi, first placed restrictions on online gamblers through the operators at the beginning of July 2020. Each quarter since then, the Minister revisited the policy finally relaxing it on November 14.
Although those restrictions were lifted, they could soon be replaced by permanent caps. In announcing the plan to ratchet back the restrictions in October, Minister Shekarab said: “Turnover in the gaming market has increased and online gaming has probably benefited from changed consumption patterns since the reregulation. There is a risk that this has led to a long-term behavioral change with increased gambling. This is a development that should be followed up to see if there is a need for further measures.”
Among the restrictions were weekly deposit limits and a moratorium on excessive bonusing. Residents were not allowed to deposit more than SEK 5,000 (~€480) per week, and operators were not allowed to offer more than 100 (~€10) in bonuses. Consumers who attempted to deposit more were blocked from doing so by the online cashier facilities. We have not seen any incidences of licensed operators violating the advertising or bonusing limits.
According to a report in SBC News UK, land-based gaming in Stockholm, Malmö, and Gothenburg at Svenska Spel’s Casino Cosmopol locations, which had been shut down until July 7, saw third-quarter net sales of SEK 132M whereas sales were non-existent while the in-person gambling venues were shuttered for over a year.
“Spelinspektionen reveals Swedish sales increase of 5%”, SBC News, November 29, 2021