Sweden Exploring Cost Of Living Impact On Problem Gambling

March 27, 2023
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Sweden’s minister for financial markets has said unlicensed gambling is a “big problem” as he addressed concerns about the impact of the country’s worsening economic situation on problem gambling.

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Sweden’s minister for financial markets has said unlicensed gambling is a “big problem” as he addressed concerns about the impact of the country’s worsening economic situation on problem gambling.

Niklas Wykman said it is “unacceptable and there is a need to take action” against unlicensed operators who “break the law and avoid taking responsibility” during a roundtable discussion held on March 22.

Wykman also emphasised the importance of improving the existing duty of care requirements, “especially due to the fact that we have entered more difficult economic times”, according to a government press release.

The meeting was attended by Camilla Rosenberg, the director general of the gambling regulator, officials from the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Social Affairs, representatives from the Public Health Authority, researchers and treatment specialists.

Other attendees gave their views on the impact that unemployment, mental illness and over-indebtedness can have on problem gambling, as well as action already being taken to counter gambling harm, its impacts and the potential need for more measures.

Gustaf Hoffstedt, the Swedish trade association for online gambling's (BOS) secretary general, welcomed the fact that the government is asking questions about problem gambling, as well as “seeking answers”.

“It is a relevant question to ask in these times. We have asked ourselves the same question and, so far, we do not see any indications among our members of either a change in gambling behaviour or an increase in problem gambling,” Hoffstedt told VIXIO GamblingCompliance.

Using the example of its member Betsson, Hoffstedt said its average customers are gambling the same amount and have not observed an increase in problem gambling activity.

“Whether that development is connected to people having less money in their pockets than before is, of course, difficult to answer,” he said.

Hoffstedt hopes the government, “unlike the last one, takes the time to gather the facts before imposing temporary restrictions on the gambling market, which risk doing more harm than good”.

Sweden’s government imposed temporary measures to restrict gambling during the COVID-19 pandemic; however, they were later criticised by the parliament’s Constitution Committee.

“Let's avoid that this time,” Hoffstedt said.

Separately, state-owned operator Svenska Spel revealed on March 21 that it had not seen an increase in at-risk gambling behaviours among its players, despite the financial situation in Sweden worsening for consumers.

In fact, customers showing signs of risky gambling behaviour spent less money gambling during January and February 2023 compared with the same period in 2022.

“This tendency is particularly clear in online casinos,” according to Svenska Spel.

Despite the findings, the operator pledged to continue to make additional interactive calls with customers.

Other jurisdictions in Europe have also recently flagged consumers' economic situation as potentially exacerbating gambling issues and are exploring countermeasures, such as the potential ban on people who receive welfare payments from gambling in Cyprus.

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