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The Swedish government is considering various measures to protect its citizens against gambling related damages. Spelinspektionen, the country’s gambling regulator, has confirmed this new to iGB. Swedish government ministers are considering a temporary closure of online casinos. New restrictions might be announced as well, to prevent an increase in gambling related damages during the Covid-19 pandemic.
2020 is the year of the Corona crisis. To prevent the spread of Covid-19, several measures have been taken. This also applies to the Swedish casino industry. Social Security Minister Aradalan Shekarabi, who is responsible for the Swedish gambling policy, said this week that ‘extraordinary measures’ will be taken if operators fail to take action to protect consumers at a time when casino gaming is becoming more popular than ever.
The Swedish gambling authority said there has been an increase of 33 percent in online casino registrations and logins with 17 out of 60 licensees in the last two weeks. A ban on online gambling is a possibility. The prospect of the ban has been received with displeasure by industry stakeholders, which comes as no surprise.
The showed that almost a third of Swedish online casino players were looking for unlicensed casinos. Managing director Fintan Costello wrote in a piece for iGB that more consumers moved abroad due to the restrictive regulations of the Swedish gambling market. If Sweden is really implementing a closure or restrictions on playing in online casinos, it would become the first market to take additional player protection measures in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic.
This proposal to close online casinos rather than protecting the players, would likely encourage thousands of players to sign up to these black market sites. This in turn would cause further financial damage to the certified market, it said. Costello said that the Swedish government will make a huge mistake if it chooses to temporarily close down online casino sites in an effort to protect players.
Strict Costello also claims that because of the Swedish legislations operators are already obliged to apply strict safety measures for responsible gaming. In his view the necessary measures to protect players are already in place. Costello says that the emphasis should be on ensuring that they are complied with, rather than taking a hasty decision to close down all legitimate brands. Because of the current restrictions more players are forced to visit unprotected sites, Costello believes.
Gustaf Hoffstedt acts as the secretary-general of the Swedish online gambling industry association, known as the Branschföreningen för Onlinespel (BOS). He’s not yet sure what action the government is going to take. But he considers any additional restriction on the market would ‘a blessing for unlicensed operators’. Hoffstedt also said that the current Swedish rate of channeling to the licensing market is at about 75 percent, which is well below the government’s target of 90 percent.
So Sweden is struggling with low channeling rates when it comes to online casinos, whether any additional restrictions on Swedish licensees are in place or not, Hoffstadt believes. He also says that it wouldn’t be a particularly bad move to deteriorate the conditions for the Swedish licensed operators”.
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