New Swedish Government Could Soften Rules On Advertising, Bonuses

September 20, 2022
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Sweden's government is set to change after a closely fought election, heralding a new approach to the gambling industry, experts predict.

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Sweden's government is set to change after a closely fought election, heralding a new approach to the gambling industry, experts predict.

Last week, Sweden’s Prime Minister and the country’s first ever female leader, Magdalena Andersson, resigned after it became clear her centre-left bloc had lost the country’s general election by a handful of votes.

That paves the way for a right-wing coalition to form a government, including the traditional centre right parties and the newly surging far right.

The head of a trade group that represents private online gambling operators in Sweden says the change of regime will “have some interesting implications”.

“I expect a few changes. Not next week, but during the four-year mandate,” said Gustaf Hoffstedt, the CEO of BOS, speaking at the CEEGC conference in Budapest last week.

The election result will also see the departure of Ardalan Shekarabi, the minister who oversaw the introduction of Sweden’s online licensing system in 2018 and who was frequently a high-profile figure in changes to gambling regulation.

He kept gambling in his brief when he changed ministries in 2019 and was most recently in the spotlight for introducing a range of COVID-related restrictions, which have since been relaxed, but which later drew censure from a government agency.

“I am optimistic about the [as yet unnamed] new minister,” said Hoffstedt.

“I expect slight liberalisations when it comes to advertising and maybe even when it comes to the harshly regulated bonus system.”

Only sign-up bonuses are allowed in Sweden and players cannot be sent retention offers.

Ulf Kristersson of the Moderate Party, with which Hoffstedt formerly served as MP, has been chosen to try to form a new government as Prime Minister.

Maria Wennerberg Sedigh, head of trade group SPER, which includes incumbent Swedish land-based operators, noted that there are still uncertain days ahead as politicians work to build a functional coalition.

However, if the Moderate Party ends up leading the government, that could spell the end for a push to tighten up advertising rules, she said.

“The current government has presented a number of proposals to parliament, [including] a proposal for an adjusted concept of moderation regarding marketing of games.

“The Moderate Party, the party that most probably will hold the post of Prime Minister, are not in favour of this proposal,” she said.

The largest party in the new coalition is the far-right Sweden Democrats, whose leader Jimmie Åkesson admitted to a gambling problem in 2014. Media reports at the time said he had spent SEK500,000 (€46,000) in online casinos in one year.

However, the parties of both Kristersson and Åkesson have been vocal in calling for the privatisation of Svenska Spel, the former monopoly operator in Sweden that is still owned by the state.

BOS and its members have long complained of the lack of a level playing field in trying to compete with Svenska Spel, which still has exclusive rights to operate land-based casinos.

“I think it’s good news,” said Hoffstedt, who even suggested any sell-off could send shockwaves through neighbouring Denmark and encourage similar action.

Denmark also has a liberalised online gambling market and its government still owns the former monopoly operator Danske Spil.

VIXIO GamblingCompliance contacted Svenska Spel, but it declined to comment on the issue.

Separately, the Swedish Gambling Authority (SGA) has launched a consultation on new responsible gambling rules.

New requirements would include less time to train employees on responsible gambling and a requirement for operators to provide real-time chat with players showing signs of experiencing gambling harm.

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