Betsson fined for Swedish retail sales and Mastercard launch

10 June 2020

Betsson has been hit with an SEK20m (£1.7m/€1.9m/$2.2m) fine by the Swedish Gaming Inspectorate (Spelinspektionen) for allowing customers to fund their online accounts through retail vouchers, while a branded Mastercard was ruled to offer illegal bonuses for players.

Each product was launched in the country’s regulated igaming market in March 2019. In the case of the retail vouchers, the operator announced a partnership with convenience store chains Pressbyrån and 7-Eleven, to sell vouchers that could be used to fund igaming accounts.

The Mastercard partnership, meanwhile, saw players offered a limited edition credit card that was directly linked with a customer’s Betsson account. Players could use this to fund their account from anywhere in the world, and would receive special offers such as tickets to major sporting events, among other benefits for cardholders.

Spelinspektionen then launched an investigation into the operator in November 2019, as neither Pressbyrån nor 7-Eleven were licensed as to act as gaming product retailers. Betsson argued that the vouchers had been launched in partnership with Convenience Card, a company specialising in gift and prepaid cards, and not directly with either retailer.

It claimed that as no gaming products were sold in the stores, the retailers did not act as gaming sales agents. Furthermore, it continued, the vouchers were only intended as a marketing tool, with the total value of vouchers bought coming to SEK250,597. However, it has since ended the partnership and discontinued voucher sales.

Spelinspektionen rejected this argument, saying that it considered the sale of the vouchers to constitute the sale of online gaming products. This, it said was down to the fact that the vouchers could only be used to fund a player’s Betsson account, and therefore amounted to a violation of Chapter 11, Section 2 of the Gaming Act. Pressbyrån and 7-Eleven therefore act as unlicensed sales agents for gambling products, it concluded.

Regarding the Betsson Mastercard, the operator said it was designed to build the operator’s brand by offering faster payouts to players, and pointed out that the provider was licensed by Sweden’s financial regulator Finansinspektionen.

It denied that the card would be used to provide features or incentives that constituted a bonus to players. Betsson had in fact made the card ineligible for use with some promotions due to uncertainty over the regulator’s interpretation of bonus rules, the operator added.

Spelinspektionen ruled that potential benefits of the card, such as tickets to sporting events, have an economic value and constitute a discount or financial incentive. Therefore it constituted a breach of Chapter 14, Section 9 of the Act, as it constituted repeat bonus offers. The Gaming Act limits operators to offering players a single bonus upon sign-up.

The regulator concluded that due to the nature of the violations, and the length of time for which they occurred, an SEK20m penalty was justified.

In related news, Spelinspektionen has fined Bethard SEK400,000 for offering bets on football matches featuring a majority of players aged 18 and under. The operator was originally fined SEK2.5m in July 2019, one of eight penalties imposed on licensees for a range of similar offences, and prompted the operator to appeal.

In April this year Sweden’s Administrative Court (Förvaltningsrätten) heard 11 appeals, upholding seven, dismissing three and cancelling the penalty issued to Bethard. The Förvaltningsrätten ruled, however, that Bethard should be fined, and left it up to Spelinspektionen to determine the amount. The regulator ultimately decided that a SEK400,000 fee, alongside a warning, was an appropriate punishment.