Swedish Anti-Match-Fixing Rules Finalized
The Swedish regulator, Spelinspektionen, has submitted its new rules, which aim to tackle match-fixing, to the European Commission for approval. The drafts have first been sent to the Swedish Trade Board, which will carry out an assessment of the ramifications of the rules and will subsequently send it to the European Commission to notify it of any changes.
The new rules designed by the authority to reduce the prevalence of match-fixing have been in the pipeline for some time now. The rules will prevent gamblers in the country from having a punt on any football match that is below the fourth division in Sweden.
Betting will also be banned in certain games in the Swedish Cup, a football competition featuring teams below the fourth division and those in higher leagues. Again, any game in this competition that features a team, not from the top four leagues will be unavailable for gambling.
The Swedish regulator is also seeking to limit players’ ability to gamble on matches that involve foreign clubs. Once again, any bets placed on such games will have to involve teams from the best four tiers of each country’s league system. The odds offered for international games will also be affected, with consumers only being allowed to bet on games above the under-21 level.
In its original plans, the regulator had intended to also introduce a ban on betting on friendlies and training games. This idea was not entirely implemented in the final draft of the rules, however, with gambling on international friendlies still allowed under the new rules.
One decision that has somewhat shaken the industry is the prohibition on gambling on events in a football game that can be easily influenced by a single player, namely breaches of the rules in sports. These markets make up a large part of a consumer’s options on gambling websites, with many looking to bet on penalties or yellow cards.
According to the authority, however, gambling on these markets opens the door to match-fixing, especially in the lower leagues in Sweden where players can be more easily motivated to manipulate such markets due to lower pay.
Additionally, operators will now be prohibited from offering any odds on the individual display or results of a player that is below the age of 18, in any sport.
These plans have now undergone multiple stages of feedback from industry professionals and the regulator is now confident that they have been refined enough for them to be effectively implemented and to have the desired impact.
The application of the rules now hinges on the feedback from the European Commission. This will take in the region of three months. Once the regulator has received and acknowledged any corrections from the commission, the rules can be implemented. Spelinspektionen has said that the date for this would be the end of 2020 at the earliest.
The War on Match-Fixing
Match-fixing has become one of the primary focuses of the gambling industry in Sweden over recent months, with many seeking legislation that would help both those providing the services and those regulating them to more effectively deal with this issue.
One of the key areas that have been identified by the authority that is often exploited by match-fixers is the lower tiers of Swedish football. According to the regulator, offering bets on these lower division games opens the door for match-rigging to occur and is one of the greatest risks to the integrity of the sport.
The risks of offering odds on this level of the sport come from the reduced scrutiny on these leagues from both the media covering the events and from the sporting bodies that regulate football. Additionally, in these leagues, players will make less money and often won’t be paid at all. This means that they can be vulnerable to taking bribes from match-fixers.
According to the authority, there is also a risk that players and teams could begin working with match-fixers in the lower divisions and could then carry these associations up into higher divisions if they get promoted. Such an event could lead to the pollution of all Swedish football leagues by match-fixers.
The Swedish regulator has had to strike a fine balance between strict rules that could harm the numbers of gambling service providers in Sweden and relaxed laws that would make it easier for match-fixers to manipulate the market. The proposals have, therefore, been designed with this in mind and Spelinspektionen is hopeful that these changes will not alienate operators in the Swedish market.
One criticism that has often been leveled at the plan to limit the types of gambling that consumers can do is the worry that it will push players towards the unlicensed iGaming market. According to the authority, it is aware of these risks, but it has taken the steps to minimize match-rigging regardless.
The regulator pointed out that licensed operators in the country are required to inform of any strange betting activity and are encouraged to keep a watchful eye on any suspected match-rigging. Unlicensed websites have no such obligation and are not required to work with Swedish law enforcement or to help international efforts to tackle problems in the industry.
While there is a risk that some players will move towards these illegal operators in the wake of these rule changes, the regulator feels this may be worth it, if match-fixing can be effectively mitigated.
Impact on the Industry
The country’s regulator has said that there should not be a significant difficulty for licensed operators to implement the changes that are mandated by the draft proposals. The regulatory body believes that most of the restrictions will just require a one-time action to implement and as such, would not be a difficult procedure.
The one area that is unlikely to be so straight forward is the restriction on betting on the individual performance of players below the age of 18. The authority has not been able to estimate the amount of time or money this will cost to implement due to a lack of data. There is also variation between operators on these markets, so the implementation will likely vary a lot between the different websites.
The response to the new rules from industry professionals has been highly varied, but the proposals have generally been controversial. The gambling trade association Branschföreningen för Onlinespel (BOS) was one of the main organizations that were consulted when the regulator was seeking feedback on its proposals.
The BOS was one group that felt the proposals were too restrictive and would lead to a reduced level of channelization towards the licensed market.
In contrast to this, Svenska Spel recently released a statement arguing that the restrictions were not severe enough and would, therefore, not effectively counteract the issue of match-fixing. The operator has been one of the most vocal supporters of strict measures in the industry.