There are renewed calls in Swedish local media to protect gamblers by introducing a national debt register and the ability to ban loans to indebted people, but barriers to introducing such a system persist.
A spokesperson for state-owned Svenska Spel, whose head of sustainability, Kajsa Nylander, co-authored an article on the news site Realtid on the issue, said measures such as a national credit register, run by the Financial Supervisory Authority or another authority, are necessary to reduce the risk of over-indebtedness.
“The credit assessment for loans works too poorly and leads to already vulnerable people becoming over-indebted. People with gambling problems are particularly vulnerable,” Svenska Spel told VIXIO GamblingCompliance.
The operator also supports a service where individuals can block getting credit, saying that both gambling operators and lenders share an equal responsibility to vulnerable customers.
“Among other things, we do affordability checks for customers who want high deposit limits and young customers receive extra protection. The credit exclusion system would complement and strengthen both our own work and Spelpaus by preventing people from financing their gambling addiction with quick loans,” Svenska Spel said.
Gustaf Hoffstedt, CEO of the online trade group BOS, said his organisation has suggested introducing a credit exclusion system for several years.
Hoffstedt told VIXIO GamblingCompliance he also believes the system would work in a similar fashion to Spelpaus and that “many stakeholders” support its introduction, including some addiction prevention groups.
However, Hoffstedt is less convinced that a national debt register will be easy to implement, pointing out that the government is already investigating it, meaning “it contains difficult privacy considerations that are not mentioned at all in the debate article”.
“I do not know what the legislator will let weigh more heavily, a possible strengthening of consumer protection but thus also a possible intrusion of personal integrity, but that question is anything but simple,” Hoffstedt said.
The Swedish Gambling Authority (SGA) would not comment on the debate but a spokesperson did highlight that it has, together with Finansinspektionen (Swedish Financial Supervisory Authority), Kronofogden (Enforcement Authority) and Konsumentverket (Swedish Consumer Agency), recommended a national debt register in the past.
The SGA also highlighted that gambling with a credit card is already banned in Sweden.
Not all addiction experts are keen on the idea, however.
Jack Symons, chief executive of gambling blocking software Gamban, warned that banning loans for indebted people could be dangerous.
“I don’t think you can remove a facility like this for people with financial difficulties,” he said, although he acknowledged that “high-interest rate borrowing can be a slippery slope for many and is especially dangerous when combined with gambling activity”.
Instead, Symons advocates for loan providers to carry out adequate checks through open banking to ensure money borrowed is not being used for gambling purposes and offer support and tools to ensure the debt cycle is less likely to continue.
“The difficulty, I suspect, is addressing the profit motive of these loan providers in turning away fee-paying customers — which invariably comes down to regulation — while fighting off unregulated loan providers and educating people of these dangerous risks,” Symons said.