Weekly Deposit Limit Considered in Sweden
A weekly deposit limit of SEK5,000 has been proposed in Sweden by the Minister of Health and Social Affairs. This would be in force from June until the end of 2020. In addition to a deposit limit, a SEK100 limit on bonus promotions has also been proposed. These proposals seek to protect players in Sweden whilst the country fights the COVID-19 outbreak.
Not only is the Swedish government seeking to limit the amount of money that players can wager online, but it is also considering the introduction of a cap on the amount of time people spend gambling. These limits will likely be implemented while the government works out the intricacies of the return-to-player restrictions.
The Minister for Health and Social Affairs in Sweden, Ardalan Shekarabi, is the driving force behind these proposals. Shekarabi has also announced that such restrictions would also apply to video lottery terminals, as well as online gaming.
Currently, the situation in Sweden is somewhat relaxed and some gambling facilities remain open. This means that players are free to gamble at video lottery terminals across the country, and, as such, the government is aiming to protect those who gamble in person as well.
These proposals from Shekarabi will first be subject to a referral process that will be run until the 7th of May. This period will allow shareholders in the industry to provide the government with feedback before the measures are officially introduced.
There has been some criticism of the referral process, however, with critics like Gustaf Hoffstedt, the secretary-general of the online gambling trade association Branschföreningen för Onlinespel (BOS) speaking out. Hoffstedt believes that the referral period will be exceedingly short and as such it will be difficult for those in the industry to push for any changes to the rules.
The government is also exploring other options to protect players from the dangers of excessive gambling during the novel coronavirus outbreak. The national gambling regulator, Spelinspektionen, has been tasked with producing monthly reports on recent developments until the 1st of September.
These reports will include recommendations on enforcement measures to tackle unlicensed gambling as well as methods to improve the protection of consumers.
The regulator has also been instructed to expand and improve the national self-exclusion register in Sweden. The register, known as Spelpaus, will now be rolled out to cover land-based gambling as well as online gambling, which is its focus at present.
Criticism of the Proposals
As previously mentioned, the proposals from the Swedish government received some very swift backlash from BOS secretary-general Gustaf Hoffstedt.
Hoffstedt believes that by limiting the amount of time and money that players can spend gambling, more and more consumers will be pushed towards the unlicensed market. According to Hoffstedt, if this occurs then players will ultimately end up with fewer protections than they have currently under Swedish consumer protection laws.
Another group that has come out in opposition to the proposals is the European Gaming and Betting Association (EGBA). The association has more or less echoed the concerns brought up by Hoffstedt, saying that the restrictions could ultimately do more harm than good.
The problem that the EGBA has with the proposed regulations is the fact that they are not targeted enough, and could, therefore, push players towards gambling on unregulated websites. This is because the unregulated sites wouldn’t have to obey the regulations set out by the government, and as such, players who choose to use them would be less protected than they are now.
The EGBA also questioned the implementation date for the proposals. The proposed start date for the regulations is the 1st of June. The EGBA believes that a start date for the restrictions that is more than a month away wouldn’t actually be very effective.
There is also some concern over the role that Spelinspektionen will play in the introduction of the restrictions and of the player protection. This is because of the many instances since the opening of the regulated iGaming market in 2019 where the regulator has been accused of being heavy-handed when it comes to restrictions.
BOS has come head-to-head with the regulator on many occasions in recent months over some of the punishments for breaches of regulations that it felt were harsh. The trade association has also been critical of Spelinspektionen’s approach to restricting the unlicensed market in Sweden over recent years.
The many incidences where the trade association has felt that regulations have been unfair, such as the proposal from Spelinspektionen to ban betting on yellow cards, have left many in the industry wary of the regulator and unsure of whether it is truly up to the task of protecting consumers in such uncertain times.