Rule Violation Gambling to be Outlawed in Sweden

The Swedish gambling regulator, Spelinspektionen, has announced that it intends to follow through with plans to ban betting on regulation breaches in sports. The legislation to implement the ban has been in the pipeline for some time but a date has now been set for it to be written into law. The new rules have been dubbed a yellow card ban as this is one of the main things that will now be outlawed – in football, consumers will not be able to gamble on the number of bookings in an effort to minimize match-fixing.

The legs of players and the referee in a football match.

The new legislation will come into effect at the turn of the new year and will prevent gambling on rule transgressions in football in Sweden. ©planet_fox/Pixabay

The new legislation that is due to be brought into effect from the 1st of January 2021, will prevent punters from placing bets on events in sports matches that can be influenced by a single player. These rules will include a prohibition of betting on the feats of specific under-18 players in sport as well as football games that are played outside of the top four leagues in the country.

Betting on such events will also be forbidden in the cup competitions that involve these lower league sides. The ban will also be extended to international fixtures. In this regard, Swedish consumers will no longer be able to bet on the individual contributions of players in international matches from the turn of the new year onwards.

One peculiarity of the new rules is that they will only apply to football matches that are played within the Swedish borders. This means that operators working in the country will be able to offer a more extensive list of markets should the event in question be happening outside of Sweden. The reason given for this is that the regulator believes that such events are less likely to be influenced by match-fixing with regards to the Swedish gambling market.

Overall this will leave operators in Sweden with a much-reduced list of divisions and markets that they can offer odds on to the public. The sportsbook companies in the country will only be able to allow people to bet on the Allsvenskan (first tier), the Superettan (second tier), the Division 1 Norra and Södra (third tier), and the half dozen regional Division 2 leagues (fourth tier) across the country.

Response to the Ban

One of the more outspoken organizations that has given its two cents on the issue has been Branschföreningen för Onlinespel (BOS), the Swedish online gambling trade association. The chief executive of the association has suggested that the new regulations are perhaps based more on politics than on research that demonstrates the changes will clearly reduce the incidence of match-fixing in the country.

The main reason for this is because of the initial kickback against the regulations that was seen in Sweden when they were first announced. The trade association has now accused the country’s regulator of attempting to appease both sides of the argument and playing politics. According to BOS, this has led to regulations that will not have their desired effect.

According to the chief executive of the trade association, the regulator, Spelinspektionen, has achieved a balanced set of laws that find a good compromise between the arguing factions in the matter. In the view of the organization, this is futile, however, as there is not a balanced view to be had on the issue at hand.

In a statement, BOS stated its view that when it comes to the matter, people fall into one of two schools of thought. Either you believe that increased restrictions on gambling lead to lower amounts of match-fixing in sport, or you think that it will not. The former opinion is the one held by the country’s athletics regulator, the Swedish Football Association, and the Minister in charge of such issues, Ardalan Shekarabi.

The chief executive holds the opinion that it is purely the political clout of these institutions and ministers that are pushing this legislation through so quickly. Shekarabi for one has been accused of giving weight to legislation in the past that may not have any specific grounding in fact and that has been opposed at nearly every level in the industry. One example of this is the introduction of spending limits for online casino after the outbreak of COVID-19.

The leader of BOS has, therefore, been left to ponder whether the country’s regulator will be content with just applying these restrictions to the market in the future. According to Gustaf Hoffstedt, the logical endpoint to the argument that gambling increases the likelihood of match-fixing is to impose such restrictions on nearly all facets of the industry.

The BOS believes that the restrictions will prove counter-productive in reducing the amount of match-fixing in Swedish sport. According to the chief executive, it will, in fact, make matters worse by increasing the risk of the practice.

The regulator has been wholeheartedly blamed for these perceived shortcomings. The trade association has stated that often the Spelinspektionen gets the wrap for a host of issues that actually are none of its concern but are more a problem of the government. In this situation though, BOS views the regulator has pointed the finger at the regulator, alleging that it has decided to implement restrictions without thinking of how they will affect the industry in the coming months.

Many have aired their concerns that these new restrictions will harm the channelization rates in Sweden. The amount of gambling occurring through legal channels has been a real area of focus for the regulatory authorities in the country over recent years. Some worry that this effort may all be undone by implementing these new rules.

Currently, the channelization rates in the country are estimated to stand between 80% and 85% which is below the government’s target of 90%. The BOS has argued that the amount of gambling through illegitimate channels is actually more damaging for the Swedish public and the amount of match-fixing. A large amount of the rigged betting is occurring in these unlicensed channels so by tackling this, the BOS believes the issue could be better mitigated.

The BOS’s viewpoint has been somewhat echoed by the International Betting Integrity Association (IBIA), which has stated that it doesn’t see the measures having a significant impact on the amount of match-fixing. In fact, the IBIA has stated that the legislation could propel the illegitimate gambling market instead.

The Regulator’s Opinion

The Spelinspectionen has outlined its position clearly at each stage of the development of the legislation. According to the regulator, these rules need to be applied to lower tiers of football in the country because these are more at risk of outside influence from would-be match-fixers.

There are fewer checks and regulations in the lower levels of the sport and, additionally, athletes at these levels are paid less money. This pay disparity can mean that players can be more easily bribed to influence the outcome of such betting markets by purposely getting booked or by knocking the ball out for a throw-in.

These reasons have been given for the decisions to not apply the rules uniformly to all football markets and divisions in Sweden. The regulator also refutes the claim that it has not considered the consequences of these new rules. According to the authority, the legislation has been drafted in conjunction with the largest consultancy agencies that operate in the market and this has pointed out the high-risk nature of football (especially at a lower level).

The new legislation will also see operators being required to report potential match-fixing to the regulator in regular annual reports so the authority can better understand the intricacies of the practice.

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A referee in giving a yellow card in a football match.

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