A Swedish court has halved the $12m fine that the SGA hit Kindred Group with last year for bonus breaches. [Image: Shutterstock.com]
Still a significant penalty
Kindred Group will now only have to pay half of a SEK100m ($12m) financial penalty in Sweden following a court decision. The Swedish Gambling Authority (SGA) had fined Kindred Group’s Spooniker subsidiary over bonus violations last year, with the gambling group proceeding to legally challenge the decision.
The Swedish Administrative Court judges sided with the SGA in recent days over the interpretation of rules regarding bonus offers. However, the judges decided to halve the fine, deeming SEK50m ($6m) to be a more appropriate amount.
Fines of this type in Sweden are usually based on the size of the operator’s turnover in the country, as well as on the seriousness of the offense.
Following the ruling, the SGA issued a statement maintaining that “the Administrative Court finds that Spooniker has committed a relatively large number of serious infringements. The court therefore believes that the SGA has had reason to issue a warning with a penalty fee.”
Origins of the fine
The original $12m fine came in March 2020 after the SGA determined that Kindred Group had violated rules by offering players repeat bonuses. Under SGA legislation, online gambling operators in the licensed market can only provide welcome offers and no additional bonuses to customers.
Kindred Group had violated rules by offering players repeat bonuses
Following an investigation, the SGA concluded that Kindred had offered numerous unauthorized bonus offers to its bettors in May and June 2019. The operator was also providing certain types of games that were not part of its operating license, including some lottery-based options.
While Kindred rectified the issues regarding the bonus offers, it raised concerns that the SGA used vague wording in its regulations that led to “unnecessary ambiguity” for licensees.
Gripes with the SGA
Kindred initially claimed that the incentives it was offering were not bonuses. The SGA went on to highlight specific promotions that it deemed to be breaching bonus rules.
It picked out the ‘Refer a Friend’ promotion, which gave bonus funds to parties for referring people to certain Kindred Group gambling platforms in Sweden. There was a poker bonus, promotions through Twitter, as well as the provision of ten free spins to players each Sunday. The SGA also referred to lottery-based offers and online bingo loyalty program incentives.
Some of the Kindred Group brands called into question included Maria Casino, Unibet, and Storspelare.
While Kindred Group only got its fine cut in half this time, it did get one over on the SGA recently. In a separate case, the authority alleged last December that the operator broke the nation’s temporary COVID-19 pandemic online casino deposit limit rules. The Swedish Administrative Court of Appeal ultimately ruled in favor of Kindred Group earlier this month.
Kindred Group is not the only operator in Sweden to face disciplinary action by the SGA. Betsson successfully appealed a SEK20m ($2.4m) fine in recent days. The case related to the operator allegedly offering illegal bonuses and allowing customers to fund their accounts through retail vouchers. The Administrative Court ruled in Betsson’s favor after it appealed the fine.