Sweden has had a hectic year in the political world, with the coronavirus, the government drama, and backlash from the online gaming industry.
Sweden started in 2019 with a prime minister that barely made it into office. Facing a pandemic and then heavy restrictions of gambling, he quickly began to lose support. It finally came to a head when his party lost faith in him and voted no confidence. Löfven ended up resigning, stating it was because the government needed someone whose party would back them. Out of a job for only a month, he was re-elected by Parliament and chose to come back. Though Löfven has said, he would resign again if not able to pass the budget through parliament in autumn.
It’s not only Löfven who has been the target of heavy criticism. One of his closest allies, Ardalan Shekarabi, the minister for Consumer Affairs, has had his share of criticism as well. This stems from his work to regulate the gambling industry in the country. The primary criticism is connected to the fact that the government has interests in two gambling companies, Svenska Spel and ATG. Svenska Spel is fully owned and controlled by the government, and ATG is partially owned. This creates a very sensitive situation because they compete with private gambling companies. Svenska Spel has an unprecedented position among all the betting companies in the country, largely due to their many exclusive products. Furthermore, ATG enjoys a monopoly on all forms of horse racing which is extremely popular in Sweden. Hundreds of millions SEK is wagered every month in their exclusive horse betting products, and the monopoly enables ATG an exclusive opportunity to cross promote and expose their users to casino games and sports betting.
Strict rules proves hard to follow
On another note, there are a lot of rules in place that frustrates the gambling operators. One of the many rules in the new regulation package has to do with bonus offers. The bonus offers can not exceed the value of 100 SEK (about €10) and is only a one time offer per license and customer. Since many companies operate several casinos under the same license, customer confusion arises when they are ineligible to receive a bonus from a casino that appears “new” to them. In order to make sense of where to actually find a new casino bonus, it presupposes that the customer is fully informed about all the casinos and the license from which they operate. For many people it demands an extreme amount of research even though there are websites such as bastacasinobonus.se which tries to assist in this process.
There have been many cases where a licensed operator has been found guilty of breaching the current bonus rules. ATG and Svenska Spel have repeatedly done so themselves, but gotten out of it with warnings or minor fines. Other companies though have been fined amounts up to 100 million SEK in seemingly small instances such as when a refer-a-friend program was deemed illegal.
Recently the SGA (Swedish Gambling Association) lost a court case against Betsson Nordic. SGA claimed the gambling company was offering illegal bonuses and incentives. SGA tried to fine over SEK 20 million(£1.6m), saying it added costs over the years. The court, however, ruled in favour of Betsson Nordic, saying the fine lacked legal grounds. Usually though, the betting companies has little success contesting the rulings.
Sweden’s Government Facing Heavy Criticism
The Swedish Trade Association for Online Gambling, or BOS (Branschföreningen för Onlinespel), represents gambling companies and game developers that target Swedish consumers. With members, BOS promotes integrity and responsibility within the industry, a safe gaming market, and shares knowledge of the industry. They also consider social protection to be given priority.
BOS has called out to the government to end the recently extended temporary restrictions following criticism of constraints by the Committee on the Constitution. As time continues on, more and more organisations and people advocate for the lift in the temporary laws. The Committee on the Constitution has the task of preparing matters concerning the Constitution. It also examines the work of the Government and government officials and is to inform the Riksdag of the results.
BOS also believes the government wanted to introduce a new gambling bill to the Riksdag before the general election. Possible extending the already extended gambling laws. Löfven has said that they are not focusing on new bills at the moment, as the fragile government is taking priority.
So when will laws change?
With all the chaos, it is hard to say if there are any changes coming soon to Sweden. Things are constantly being talked about, and dates are being proposed. However, the only concrete dates we have are the temporary gambling restrictions being removed in November of this year.