Spelinspektionen looks to ban betting on yellow cards

14 January 2020

Sweden’s gambling regulator Spelinspektionen has put forward an amendment to the country’s gaming rules that would see operators prohibited from offering odds on rule violations, such as a yellow card in football or a fault in tennis.

The draft regulations, for which a consultation has been launched, aims to improve anti-match fixing controls by removing any potential reward for athletes that commit certain acts for match-fixing purposes. It would ban betting on incidents such as cards, penalty kicks, disqualifications and other punishments that may be handed out to teams or players in the course of an event.

This, in turn, would also ensure that fixers do not attempt to influence individual athletes, Spelinspektionen director general Camilla Rosenberg explained.

This new restriction on betting markets was one of three new rules the regulator aims to bring in. It also aims to ban betting that a team or athlete will lose a match or tournament, and a prohibition on bets on the individual performance of an athlete aged under 18.

“Spelinspektionen believes that this should be seen as a first step in the approach to counteract manipulation of [sporting] results through regulation,” the regulator explained.

“This, together with other measures such as collaboration with the Match Fixing Council, the gaming companies' own work on monitoring the manipulation of results and the sport [governing bodies’] own work to prevent and detect manipulation, will counteract match fixing.”

The new controls that have been put forward mark a significant climb-down from the regulator’s original plans. It revealed that it had originally been considering more extensive restrictions, such as a directory of competitions and events on which operators would be permitted to offer odds.

This would have been in place for the sports considered at greatest risk from match fixing, including football and tennis. However it ultimately reduced the scope of the new controls over concerns that it could lead to players shifting to unlicensed gaming sites.

The consultation on the new controls runs until 14 February, after which Spelinspektionen will take into account feedback and consider any changes to the proposed regulations. However, Rosenberg noted that if further restrictions were necessary, the regulator would not hesitate to bring them into force.

The proposal has already prompted a sceptical response from the International Betting Integrity Association (IBIA), which has around 50 retail and online sports betting brands feeding into its alerts system, including a number of high-profile Swedish brands. Chief executive Khalid Ali said that while the integrity monitoring body was keen to work with regulators on any initiatives to tackle betting related match fixing, it was difficult to see how the new regulations were either justified or effective.

“There is a range of evidence that the markets proposed to be prohibited are not the markets that corrupters primarily focus on as liquidly levels are too low and illicit activity more easily identified,” Ali explained. “Furthermore, corrupters often seek to place bets outside of the territory where the event is corrupted, notably on the unregulated market in Asia, making Swedish market restrictions ineffective.”

Ali warned that the restrictions could only serve to prevent Swedish consumers from accessing well regulated products, and ultimately hinder the goal of channelling players towards legal forms of gambling.