The Swedish online gambling market will be a year old on January 1, 2020, and will be one of a number of key discussions in the second edition of CasinoBeats Malta next year.
The four-track conference and two-day exhibition takes place at the Intercontinental Malta in St Julian’s on March 25/26, 2020, and follows a successful first staging earlier this year.
Ahead of that date Brean Wilkinson, product advisor at Rightlander, takes a brief look back to September’s CasinoBeats Summit to address what lessons have been learned so far and what we can hope for in the future.
When the Swedish gaming regulator, Spelinspektionen, announced that regulation was going to be introduced on January 1, 2019, many stakeholders possibly feared the worst, but also hoped for the best. So nearly a year on, how has regulation changed the landscape in one of the most buoyant online gambling markets in Europe?
It would be fair to say that regulation in Sweden’s online gambling market got off to a bit of a rocky start. Spelinspektionen had some very clear objectives it aimed to achieve, and it didn’t take the market long to work out what these were.
Within the same month that regulation began, Spelinspektionen publicly warned new online
licensees that they were required to comply with new rules. In a strongly worded letter sent to the 66 companies approved to operate in Sweden, the regulator made clear that there would be no exceptions for marketing gambling products to self-excluded players or not properly advertising the Spelpaus self-exclusion register on their websites.
Only six months later financial penalties were imposed on eight different operators for offering betting markets on events where players were typically under the age of 18. Most of the operators penalised were licensed gambling operators in Sweden. Of the eight operators, four were later cleared of any wrong doing on appeal.
During the course of this first year several operators have complained of the unfair advantage Sweden’s former gambling monopoly Svenka Spel appeared to have gained from splitting its online and land-based businesses up. Many private firms believed Svenka Spel could use this to their advantage by cross-selling products between the different entities of their business.
There have also been grievances expressed by those companies who have been granted a license for Sweden. They have seen unlicensed operators continue to attract Swedish players through various means. These unlicensed operators may not be able to serve Swedish language content on their websites or use the Swedish TLD (.se) in their domain names, but other opportunities have arisen as an unfortunate consequence of the public’s understanding of the regulated landscape.
Speaking on a SBC webinar about the Swedish gaming market, iGaming consultant Ismail Vali told listeners that his company had seen an increase in searches in Sweden for ‘tax free betting’ and ‘tax free casino’. A logical conclusion might be that players had interpreted the new Swedish gambling regulations as potentially taxing their bets or winnings.
Rightlander were fortunate enough to participate in Swedish-focused panel at the Casinobeats Summit in London back in September. The speakers may have had their differences of opinion, but where they seemed to be unanimously in agreement was the need for greater dialogue between the regulator, Spelinspektionen and the licensed operators in Sweden. Both sides don’t appear to have found a common ground when it comes to issues like bonus restrictions, educating the general public and dealing with unlicensed operators.
To be fair to the regulator, Spelinspektionen, they have made some efforts to communicate with operators and stakeholders through events like their operator meeting in September. It was live streamed on YouTube in both Swedish and English and provided more detail on the processes involved in regulating the Swedish market. What seemed apparent was the eagerness in the audience to ask questions about the rules put in place by the regulator. Certain parts of the regulation that needed clarification or even possibly amending. Most of these questions, if not all, were largely left unanswered.
This is sometimes the difficulty with regulation – the clearer the rules, the easier they are to circumnavigate. So it is probably little surprise that Spelinspektionen allowed the audience to continue interpreting the rules the best they could. The area they were most clear was that ‘there are no grey areas’.
As we close in on the first year of regulation in Sweden, it is probably reasonable to conclude that we have seen a bit of stick – with the penalties, and some carrot – with the operator meeting. Possibly what we need more of is greater dialogue between the regulator and the licensed operators to encourage a healthy Swedish online gambling market, which the regulator, operators and most importantly, players can all benefit from.
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