Sweden’s State Treasury has called for more action against unlicensed operators and for consumer protection measures to be bolstered.
The Treasury also made a host of other recommendations in a report published by the Agency for Public Management evaluating the impact of the re-regulation of the country’s gambling market in 2018-2022.
The fact that 13 percent of gambling still occurs with unlicensed operators is considered an “important area for improvement” by the Treasury.
In its recommendations, the Treasury urges the government to instruct the Swedish Gambling Authority (SGA) to increase its understanding of the black market and to work with other EU countries to diminish it.
Another key area highlighted for improvement is the duty of care required by operators under the Gaming Act to counter excessive gambling.
The Treasury wants more evidence and understanding of the impacts changing duty of care guidelines have and for clearer regulation on how operators can process personal data to prevent excessive gambling.
Nevertheless, the report says: “The Swedish gaming market has functioned better in 2021 than in 2018, which was the last year before re-regulation. The re-regulation has improved the conditions for achieving the Riksdag's (governing body’s) goals for gambling.”
When the Swedish government re-regulated gambling its main aims were to increase consumer protection, safeguard state-operated gambling revenues and collect taxes from licensed operators.
“Gambling regulation contributed to gambling companies contacting nearly 200,000 players in the first half of 2021 because they showed signs of excessive gambling,” it said.
An estimated 87 percent of gambling activity took place with licensed operators in 2021 compared with less than 50 percent before re-regulation occurred on January 1, 2019, according to the report.
The SGA agrees with the Treasury’s recommendations when it comes to strengthening consumer protection and tackling unlicensed operators, a spokesperson told VIXIO GamblingCompliance.
A separate recommendation in the report is for the SGA to develop its communication with the gambling industry.
The regulator said it has held regular meetings with the two Swedish trade associations, the Swedish Trade Association for Online Gambling (BOS) and SPER, the trade group which represents state-owned Svenska Spel and ATG among others, over the past year “in order to exchange information and discuss further improvements”.
On April 26, the SGA is also hosting a seminar on illegal gambling that it wants the industry to join.
Maria Wennerberg Sedigh, SPER CEO, also supports the report’s recommendations, calling them “good” and “well balanced”.
SPER said it is extremely important that the SGA receives all the funding needed to counteract unlicensed gambling and believes the duty of care can be made “more effective”.
Gustaf Hoffstedt, secretary general of BOS trade group, said there is still some way to go before the government's goal of at least 90 percent channeling is reached, but believes “this sends a strong message to our neighbouring countries Norway and Finland, which still suffer from the monopoly system's poor ability to channel punters to the national gambling regulations”.
At the same time, Hoffstedt points out that channeling for online casinos is still only around 75 percent.
"Unfortunately, there is nothing surprising about this, after the government and the responsible minister's witch hunt since the re-regulation of gambling companies that offer this form of gambling. This requires a change of course on the part of the government if we are to succeed in raising the channel to a long-term sustainable level," Hoffstedt said.
Other recommendations made by the Treasury include the SGA producing regular reports on channeling and an annual match-fixing report, as the Treasury said it has seen “little concrete progress” in improving match-fixing safeguards since re-regulation.
Some areas highlighted as ineffective in the report included payment blocking to unlicensed operators and ordering internet service providers (ISPs) to draw up warning messages for consumers, with the existing system requiring court orders to block payments directly to unlicensed operators described as “administratively burdensome”.
However, the Treasury did not produce any direct recommendations to resolve this, as it is largely being addressed by the government’s recent legal advice to license gambling software companies, ban the promotion of illegal gambling and tighten marketing restrictions to protect children and the vulnerable.