Swedish operator bodies establish new marketing code

28 March 2019

Sweden’s leading gambling trade associations Spelbranschens Riksförbund (SPER) and Branschföreningen för Onlinespel (BOS) have set out a new code of conduct for members to tackle concerns over excessive advertising in the newly-regulated market.

The new code of conduct has been drawn up by SPER and BOS, with a view to having its members adopt the self-regulatory controls from April 1, 2019. It is in response to concerns raised by Minister for Consumer Affairs - and the architect of the country’s igaming regulations - Ardalan Shekarabi over the high volume and aggressive nature of advertising by licensees in the first months of the market opening.

It sets out new controls for nine key areas, beginning with the requirement for licensees to ensure their marketing is factually accurate, and does not misrepresent gambling in a way that could harm consumer confidence. As such, operators cannot claim that they offer so-called no registration products, such as those powered by Trustly’s Pay N Play solution.

This will also see all licensees required to make clear that there is no guarantee of winning, and must not suggest that anything other than chance will influence the result.

Secondly, advertising must avoid encouraging excessive play, with marketing to avoid suggesting that gambling can be a solution for financial, social, personal or professional issues. The third section orders licensees to clearly set out all conditions and steps necessary to take advantage of bonus promotions.

Fourth is a requirement for operators to avoid developing marketing that may appeal to minors in any way. This prohibits advertising from being placed near schools or playgrounds, gambling brands from appearing on clothing, equipment or products designed for minors, and states that age restrictions must clearly be featured in all advertising.

The new code also addresses gambling sponsorship, with the fifth section stating that all such deals must be accompanied by an agreement on social responsibility guidelines that the operator must adhere to. Sponsorship deals cannot be struck with events targeted at minors, though sponsorship of public utilities that may be used by children are permitted, provided operators’ branding and products are not promoted to underage individuals.

The sixth section deals with help for responsible gaming, with operators to have responsible gaming messaging clearly displayed in advertising. They must also link to support services for problem gamblers and their families on their licensed websites.

The code includes consumer privacy controls, with section seven stating that all operators must follow the Swedish Direct Marketing Association, International Chamber of Commerce and Interactive Advertising Bureau’s guidelines for direct marketing. Marketing via email and SMS can only be carried out with the consumer’s advance consent, and all such material must have a link to unsubscribe.

Marketing via third-party partners is dealt with in section nine of the code, stating that the operator has ultimate responsibility for all content. That means they are required to ensure third-party marketing service providers - such as affiliates or agencies - are aware of, and comply with, Swedish igaming marketing guidelines. Operators are also required to ensure their ads do not appear on illegal sites, such as streaming sites, or pornographic websites.

Section nine sets out penalties for non-compliance, with the public and industry stakeholders able to report violations to SPER and BOS, the Swedish Consumer Ombudsman, or to the country’s gambling regulator Spelinspektionen and the national consumer agency.

“Our members represent a significant part of the gaming market in terms of market share,” SPER chief executive Jenny Nilzon said of the new code. “Therefore we assume that these measures will apply to [almost] all license holders in Sweden.

"The guidelines also apply when using influencers, streamers, external podcasts and other social media,” Nilzon added.

BOS secretary general Gustaf Hoffstedt added that the two bodies had begun discussions with the Swedish media industry in order to ensure the new controls could be as effective as possible.

The pair noted that by setting out these guidelines, they were looking to ensure operators in the regulated Swedish market showed a duty of care to customers, which they said should be reflected in the sector’s marketing practices.