Shekarabi proposes betting exemption for Swedish deposit cap

26 May 2020

Sweden’s Minister for Social Security Ardalan Shekarabi has put forward an amended set of temporary restrictions on gambling in which he aims to make horse and sports betting exempt from an SEK5,000 (£401/€459/$495) weekly deposit limit.

If adopted this would mean the SEK5,000 cap first proposed in April only applies to online casino games and slots, products that Shekarabi claimed put players at greater risk of developing problems.

The revised proposal made it clear that different games posed different risks, he added.

As outlined in the original proposal to protect players spending more time in their homes as a result of novel coronavirus (Covid-19), it would be mandatory for players to set time limits, but now only for online casino and slots. The SEK100 bonus cap also put forward in April would now also only apply to online casino sites.

While it was originally intended for these restrictions to come into force from 1 June, until the end of 2020, they will now be brought in from 2 July.

In a document explaining the changes, the government noted that concerns had been flagged about the deposit limit being imposed across all verticals. This issue, most notably, was raised by former horse racing monopoly AB Trav och Galopp (ATG) in a consultation held for the original controls.

Operator association Branscheförenigen för Onlinespel (BOS) was quick to claim the revised controls would benefit operators in which the government held a stake - such as ATG - over private businesses.

“It is obvious that the government's measures are not intended to improve consumer protection, but instead to provide competitive advantages to the gaming companies in which the government has interests,” BOS secretary general Gustaf Hoffstedt said. 

BOS pointed to recent statistics from the Swedish Tax Agency (Skatteverket) which suggested players had shifted to betting on racing amid the suspension of major sporting events, rather than to online casino.

It said there had been a 37% month-over-month increase in revenue from betting on racing between March and April, based on returns from the five largest licensed operators in the market. For April, BOS noted, revenue from the vertical had reached its highest since the country’s regulated market opened in January 2019.

“These reported figures confirm that players have changed their behaviour as a result of the pandemic,” Hoffstedt said. “There has been a clear shift from betting on sports to betting on horses, while online casino play has not increased, which contrasts what the Minister for Social Security claims.”

Hoffstedt added that to establish a responsible and well-functioning market, decisions had to be based on fact.

“Misappropriated and inadequately justified restrictions threaten to move gambling from the secure licensed gaming companies to the unlicensed gaming companies, beyond the control that gaming legislation aims to bring about,” he added.