EGBA joins opposition to Swedish casino restrictions

18 May 2020

The European Gaming and Betting Association (EGBA) has criticised the online casino restrictions set to come into force in Sweden next month as “not evidence-led” and warned they may do more harm than good for Swedish player protection.

Proposed by Minister for Health and Social Affairs Ardalan Shekarabi, the restrictions would set an SEK5,000 (£401/€459/$495) mandatory weekly deposit limit and a SEK100 cap on bonuses from 1 June to the end of 2020.

Maarten Haijer, secretary general of EGBA, said the restrictions could end up doing more harm than good.

“We understand that politicians seek to reassure and protect their citizens during these difficult times, but the proposed gambling restrictions could actually harm more customers than they protect,” Haijer said. “Many Swedes are already gambling on unlicensed websites and these restrictions will make unlicensed websites – which don’t apply any limits – even more attractive to them.”

EGBA said that the regulations were “not evidence-led” and the more effective way of preventing problem gambling during lockdown would be to focus specifically on at-risk customers. The Association cited data from Belgium, Denmark and Great Britain as well as H2’s global gambling forecasts, all of which it said proved online gambling has decreased “substantially”.

“Rather than one-size-fits-all restrictions, which will have no effect on the majority of customers and jeopardise consumer protection for those they seek to protect, EGBA supports targeted measures, including tailored interventions, to protect those at risk of problem gambling at this time,” it said.

EGBA echoed the Swedish Gaming Authority’s (Spelinspektionen) sentiments towards the rules, which the regulator said could have a negative effect on channelisation towards the licenced market in Sweden

“The deposit limit could, as Spelinspektionen rightly warn, drive high-spending players towards unlicensed websites which undermine their consumer protection – these websites are readily available, easy to access and do not apply any limits or responsible gambling measures, including the country’s Spelpaus self-exclusion scheme,” EGBA added.

Haijer concluded by saying that top-down regulation is rarely the most effective way to solve problem gambling issues.

“We must remember gambling is human behavior, consumers will always make their own choices and top-down regulation rarely works. In this case, it could have detrimental or counterproductive effects by pushing more gambling onto unregulated websites.”

Many businesses active in the Swedish market have also criticised the controls. Cherry warned that the controls could make it harder to track changes in customer habits and spending as players would move between operators more frequently.

AB Trav och Galopp (ATG) said it supported efforts to improve safeguards, though also noted that it has seen no increase in unhealthy play among its customer base.

Henrik Tjärnström, chief executive of Unibet operator Kindred, called the proposals “an open invitation to illegal gambling sites”, while  Svenska Spel chief executive Patrik Hofbauer argued existing regulations set out each operator's responsibilties to customers, meaning that additional controls were unnecessary.