The Swedish government has approved the implementation of a weekly deposit limit for online casino players, among a host of temporary rules and restrictions aimed to protect Swedes from gambling-related harm amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The measures will come into effect on July 2 and will remain in force through the end of the year.
The package of rules and restrictions was spearheaded by Sweden’s Social Security Minister Ardalan Shekarabi. Minister Shekarabi’s proposal was met with vocal protests from the online gambling industry, with locally licensed operators arguing that the soon-to-be-imposed measures will encourage gamblers to play with unlicensed offshore sites that cannot be monitored, regulated, and penalized by Swedish authorities.
Sweden’s gambling regulator, Spelinspektionen, also spoke out against the measures. The agency warned that its licensees would not have enough time to adjust to the new rules by July 2.
Weekly Deposit Limit
One of the measures approved this week by Swedish lawmakers involves the implementation of weekly deposit cap for online casino play. Swedish gamblers will not be allowed to spend more than SEK5,000 (approx. $537) per week on regulated casino websites.
Locally licensed online casino operators will only be able to offer bonuses of up to SEK100 (approx. $10.78). It should be noted that under Swedish gambling law, operators are only allowed to offer a one-off sign-up bonus to their Swedish customers.
Minister Shekarabi’s original proposal called for the implementation of a weekly deposit cap on sports betting, as well. However, lawmakers eventually decided to exclude the practice from that measure.
That proposal was heavily criticized by locally licensed operators, who argued that the weekly deposit limit on sports betting would have benefited state-run gambling companies over their international counterparts.
As part of Minister Shekarabi’s package of measures, Swedish players will be required to set time limits on how much time they would spend playing online slots and other casino games.
The Social Security Minister has said that as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, they “see a mix of circumstances that together create great risks in the gaming sector” and that these need to be counteracted.
In addition, the Swedish government has earmarked some SEK500,000 in funding for the country’s Public Health Authority to conduct further research into problem gambling amid the Covid-19 health crisis.
The Public Health Authority will be expected to report its findings to the Ministry of Social Affairs by the end of February 2020.
Days before the government approved Minister Shekarabi’s proposed measures, Sweden’s Trade Association for Online Gambling (BOS) presented seven “fact-based” alternative measures that it believes would better regulate the sector and protect gambling customers “without damaging the important channelization.”
According to a BOS-commissioned study by independent research firm Copenhagen Economics, Minister Shekarabi’s measures would result in channelization for online casinos falling from “an already low 75% to an even lower 52-63%.”
BOS and its members call for expansion of Sweden’s licensing requirements to cover iGaming content suppliers and companies that provide customers and for an IQ campaign for the gambling industry that would increase public awareness about Sweden’s self-exclusion register, Spelpaus, and other regulated consumer protection tools.
BOS also said that customers can benefit hugely from data collection and data sharing between gambling operators. The organization also urged the government to extend Spelinspektionen’s mandate and tasking the regulator with requesting regular reports from its licensees with anonymized data on customers’ gambling behavior.
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