BOS Hits Out Over Regulation Changes
The trade association for gambling operators in Sweden, Branschföreningen för Onlinespel (BOS) has criticized the government’s revised restrictions for the industry. The temporary changes to regulations were introduced as a response to the ongoing coronavirus outbreak in Europe. These restrictions were recently revised but the BOS believes they will still harm the industry.
The initial measures were announced by the Social Security Minister, Ardalan Shekarabi. These restrictions were designed to protect consumers from what was seen as an increased risk of developing dangerous gambling habits during a period of lockdown.
The restrictions introduced a mandatory weekly deposit limit of SEK5,000 and also mandated that players must set themselves time limits for online gambling during the lockdown period.
The original plans were not popular with industry professionals and trade associations alike. Many signed a petition to make their feelings heard over the issue. The petition was originally put forward by the BOS. It was signed by some of the biggest names in the online gambling industry, these included businesses such as William Hill and Leo Vegas.
Even the gambling regulator in Sweden voiced concerns that the restrictions could lead to an increased number of players moving towards unlicensed offerings.
In the wake of the criticism, the government released its new plans to ease some of the restrictions. Shekarabi announced the plans to remove horse racing and sports betting from the deposit limits and to apply it just to online casino games, and slots.
Reaction from BOS
BOS has been one of the more critical bodies of the government since the restrictions were announced. This has not changed, even when the government revised these plans. The association has now released an official statement aimed at the Ministry of Finance in the country.
In this statement, BOS has asked questions of the motivations of the government. The association has also reiterated concerns that the deposit limits will lead to decreased channelization in the Swedish gambling market.
One of the fundamental arguments put forward by BOS is that the Ministry of Finance has not yet provided any concrete evidence that there has been an increase in online casino gaming rates since the lockdown began. This is important because this was one of the reasons that the government gave for introducing the measures in the first place.
There is, in fact, evidence suggesting the contrary is true. BOS has stated that its member organizations have not declared any distinct increase in traffic to their websites since the outbreak began hitting Europe.
In addition to this, a recent study was performed which investigated changes to consumers’ gambling activity during the period of lockdown. This study discovered that punters in Germany, Sweden, Norway, and Finland had all gambled less during the period. This suggests that players were not moving towards casino games as had previously been feared.
The trade association has also suggested that any policy changes be more rooted in evidence, rather than speculation. BOS has called for the Ministry of Finance to analyze the data more thoroughly before legislating, and to produce monthly and quarterly reports on the state of the industry to generate a clearer picture of the issue.
The statement also touches on the issue of channelization of players in Sweden. The trade association recently performed a study in which it found that the rate of channelization for all online casino and sports betting services was well below the targets set by the government.
BOS believes that these restrictions could further harm this rate, resulting in even more Swedish players using unlicensed services. This would increase the risk that players would be at risk of dangerous or fraudulent gambling services.
In its statement, the association also voiced its concerns that the new controls will be difficult to implement effectively. Those operating in the Swedish market would ordinarily be expected to undergo rigorous testing to ensure that any systems in place will meet the stipulations set out in legislation.
The trade association has suggested that achieving this will be very difficult considering the small window that operators have been given to implement any changes. The association is worried that because of this, there will be a loss in player protection as operators scramble to comply with the new regulations.
Finally, the BOS reiterated a sentiment that it had previously voiced. The trade association stated that it felt the revised restrictions would unfairly benefit state-owned operators rather than private entities in the market.
Both sports betting and horse racing are some of the biggest earners for the state-owned operators Svenska Spel and ATG. The revised regulations would unfairly protect these operators over other licensees in Sweden, according to BOS.