Will Sweden Shut Down Online Casinos?
It has been reported in Sweden that the government is eyeing-up a potential temporary ban on online casino games amid the COVID-19 outbreak hitting the country. The idea that has been put forward by several ministers aims to reduce the prevalence of gambling-related issues during a time of uncertainty and economic stress.
The gambling regulator in Sweden, Spelinspektionen, has stated that such measures are on the cards, as well as some others. These actions will aim to protect consumers in the country during a time when people who suffer from gambling-related issues are more susceptible to exacerbating such problems.
Movement restrictions are in place at the moment across nearly all countries in Europe and with this many people have been forced to stop working. With people being at home a large proportion of the time, those who enjoy playing online casino games might find themselves playing them a lot more. This could spark problems at a time when the country is already rife with monetary uncertainty.
The claims from Spelinspektionen that have insinuated an online casino ban may be on the way have been supported by the Minister for Social Security in Sweden, Ardalan Shekarabi. This minister is in charge of gambling policy for the government and earlier this week warned of “extraordinary measures” that might have to be introduced should gambling operators not increase their safeguarding measures in the near future.
Response from the Industry
Many that work in the industry have been quick to suggest that a ban on online casinos would not necessarily have the effect that the government desires. One company that has released a statement on the matter is BonusFinder, which specializes in affiliate marketing.
By analyzing data provided by Spelinspektionen, BonusFinder reported a 33% increase in the number of registrations to online casinos for 17 of the total of 60 licensed operators in the country. In addition to this, the company also found that nearly a third of Swedish consumers were looking for unlicensed casinos.
As the legislation in Sweden becomes more restrictive, and licensed operators find themselves with fewer options to grasp the attention of consumers, more and more of the market is making its way offshore.
BonusFinder stated its concerns that by banning online casinos, the government would end up doing the opposite of what they intend with the regulations. Players would, in fact, become more vulnerable as a result of a ban because more and more would be pushed towards the illegal offerings of unlicensed operators.
Not only would this leave the players at risk, but the economy would also suffer, as more and more money would hemorrhage offshore. This would leave both players and licensed operators in a tough situation financially and could cause a lot of uncertainty in the market.
According to industry experts, a ban might be a spark that could cause a huge upset to the Swedish gambling market. The market has already been severely affected by the restrictive regulations that were introduced in January of last year, according to Fintan Costello of BonusFinder. The bans could, in turn, provoke a boom for the black market.
Costello went on to argue that there are already ample safeguarding measures that licensed operators are expected to maintain under their licensing agreements with the government. He, therefore, argued that any additional measures were unnecessary and would prove detrimental to the market.
Companies that are operating in the Swedish market should instead be expected to adhere more strictly to these safeguarding measures that they are already expected to uphold.
Another individual that voiced their concerns with the idea was Gustaf Hoffstedt, who is the general secretary for the Swedish association of online gambling operators, Branschföreningen för Onlinespel (BOS).
Hoffstedt conceded that he does not know the approach that the Swedish government will opt for eventually, a ban on online casinos would have a profoundly negative effect on the Swedish market. Hoffstedt went on to say that by banning online casino from licensed operators, unlicensed providers would benefit enormously.
At present, the amount of channelization towards the licensed market in Sweden is around 70%, according to Hoffstedt. The Swedish government has set a target of 90% channelization.
These low channelization rates would likely take a big hit from any regulations that would prevent online casino games. This would take the figure for channelization even further away from the target that has been set by the government and would likely take a long time to rectify.
The Swedish regulator has been accused of being too heavy-handed with the restrictions that it places on operators in recent months. One idea that drew a lot of backlash is the idea put forward to ban betting on any markets that can be influenced by a single player in a game, such as fouls or yellow cards.