The Swedish government has announced an end to the nation’s temporary pandemic online gambling restrictions starting November 14. [Image: Shutterstock.com]
A review of the temporary measures
The Swedish government is getting rid of its controversial online gambling limits on November 14. This includes the weekly deposit limit for online casino players of SEK5,000 ($586.73). However, the government is asking the country’s gambling regulator, Spelinspektionen, to evaluate the effectiveness of those measures and to propose potential new ones that would bolster the protection of players in both the short term and the long term.
There is a risk that this has led to a long-term behavioral change with increased gambling.”
Minister of Social Insurance Ardalan Shekarabi mentioned in Thursday’s statement how turnover in the gambling sector has increased since the regulated market was introduced at the start of 2019. Shekarabi said: “There is a risk that this has led to a long-term behavioral change with increased gambling. This is a development that should be followed up to see if there is a need for further measures.”
Spelinspektionen has until March 15, 2022 to submit a report that analyses the performance of the temporary measures. The rest of its report regarding potential new changes needs to be ready by October 31, 2023.
The reasoning behind the initial implementation
Sweden’s temporary restrictions initially came into place in June 2020 due to concerns about people’s gambling behavior during the COVID-19 pandemic. The measures included a weekly online casino deposit limit of SEK5,000 ($586.73), as well as a SEK100 ($11.73) cap on bonuses. Initially, these measures were to be in place until the close of 2020, but they were extended until May 2021 and then again until November 14, 2021.
Providing reasoning for the extension of the temporary measures, Minister Ardalan Shekarabi said that the pandemic was putting a lot of financial stress on people and that the government saw continuing risks for vulnerable people when it came to activities like gambling.
The Swedish Trade Association for Online Gambling, Branschföreningen för Onlinespel (BOS), had been pushing for a September 29 end to the temporary restrictions. This would have been in line with the lifting of the rest of Sweden’s pandemic-related restrictions. These calls fell on deaf ears, though, and the government will now proceed with a November 14 removal date.
A strict market
The temporary measures were a controversial topic, with many stakeholders vehemently opposing their introduction. This included many major gambling operators arguing that the limits would only lead to people moving over to the black market. Even Spelinspektionen suggested that the restrictions would only have a very marginal effect on reducing problem gambling.
The Swedish gambling market is very tightly regulated. Any errant operators are dealt with in a strong manner. Numerous operators have been hit with fines totaling millions of dollars for a variety of failings, including the Kindred Group-owned Spooniker Ltd being fined SEK100m ($11.7m) in March 2020 for allegedly offering players illegal bonuses. Spooniker appealed the fine and got the penalty halved to SEK50m ($5.86m).
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