Regulator orders three unlicensed operators to leave Swedish igaming market

Three operators have been ordered to leave the Swedish market.
Three operators have been ordered to leave the Swedish market.

Spelinspektionen, the national regulator found the three operators were targeting Swedish igaming players without licences.

Sweden. The Swedish gaming regulator Spelinspektionen has ordered three operators to stop targeting the Swedish igaming market without the appropriate licence.

It has ordered Cerberlot NV, Digi Markets NV and Prism Marketing Limited to cease targeting Swedish players with immediate effect.

Cerberlot’s and Prism Marketing’s Goldenaxecasino were found to be targeting Swedish customers directly. Digi Markets’ was found to be targeting Swedish igaming customers through affiliates.

All three sites were violating sections 2 and 3 of the Swedish Gaming Act, Spelinspektionen said. Section 2 of the act refers to directing games at the Swedish market. Section 3 refers to the requirement that operators have the correct licence to offer games.

Spelinspektionen’s Robert Larsson said: “The Swedish Gaming Inspectorate considers with regard to consumer protection and to guarantee the safety of the game that it is important that the decision is complied with immediately. The decision shall therefore apply immediately.”

The regulator’s strategy for unlicensed activity published in December sets out the stages in the process it takes when confronting unlicensed igaming operators.

Its first step is to issue an order to leave the market. If operators fail to comply, the regulator will then issue fines, and finally, involve the police. 

The problem of channelisation to the licensed market in Sweden has led to criticism of the country’s temporary deposit limits on online casino games.

In December, the government launched an inquiry into illegal gambling. It was announced after a survey showed that 95% of Swedes don’t know how to check gaming licences.

Sweden extends online casino deposit limit

The Swedish government has further extended its temporary restrictions on online casino gaming until November.

The restrictions, including a limit on online casino deposits, were introduced on July 1 last year due to fears that Covid-19 lockdowns would cause a rise in problem gambling. They were due to remain in place for six months, but were subsequently extended until June this year.

Sweden’s minister for social protection Ardalan Shekarabi said: “We see that the spread of covid-19 is still high in Sweden. The current situation entails great risks for consumers in the gaming market. We, therefore, need to act to reduce the risks for the most vulnerable consumers.”

Sweden’s restrictions on online casinos

The temporary controls include a SEK5,000 (€490) monthly deposit limit for online casino slots. Players must also set limits on playing time on both online casinos and gaming machines, and operators cannot offer bonuses of more than SEK100.

The restrictions have been criticised by the industry from the outset. The Swedish online gaming operators’ association Branschföreningen för Onlinespel (BOS) has been a major opponent.

When the government announced its consultation on the extension of the restrictions, BOS CEO Gustaf Hoffstedt said: “It is only the black market that has reason to rejoice at the government’s proposal for continued restrictions for Swedish-licensed gambling companies.”

Even Spelinspektionen, the Swedish gambling regulator that has the job of enforcing the restrictions, has shown considerable reservations to the measure.

It initially argued that the deposit limit was unworkable because players could split their play across different operators.

It has since said clarification is needed because operators that offer both online casino and sports betting can avoid the limit by allowing players to deposit funds before lowering their limit to gain access to casino gaming.

The Administrative Court in Linköping has overturned sanctions that the regulator took against Kindred Group’s Spooniker for allowing players to use the loophole to spend more than the SEK5,000 monthly limit on slots.

Spelinspektionen has appealed against that ruling, claiming that the court’s decision means the online casino deposit limit would “lose its significance as a consumer protection provision” and allow operators to easily circumvent the limit.

The Swedish government has, however, made no change to the wording of the restrictions in the latest extension.

Swedish gaming revenue up 5% in Q1

Gross gaming revenue (GGR) for Sweden’s first quarter hit SEK6.25bn (€615.3m). That’s a rise of 5 per cent year-on-year but a decline of 8 per cent from the last quarter of 2020.

Commercial online gambling operators generated SEK3.94bn, up 7.4 per cent year-on-year. State lottery and slot operators brought in SEK1.40bn, up 24 per cent. Revenue from lotteries for public benefit purposes fell 0.3 per cent to SEK858m.

Bingo games for public benefit purposes brought in SEK44m, while restaurant casinos contributed SEK6m, down from SEK52m in the first quarter of 2020.

Svenska Spel’s Casino Cosmopol monopoly on land-based casinos reported no revenue since venues remain closed owing to Covid-19 countermeasures. 

Casinos have been closed since March 2020. In Q1 2020, Casino Cosmopol generated GGR of SEK196m

Compared to the last quarter of 2020, revenue from commercial online gambling was down 6 per cent, revenue from state lottery and slot operators was down 9.3 per cent, and revenue from lottery games for public benefit purposes was down 12.6 per cent.

The Swedish gaming regulator Spelinspektionen said close to 63,000 people were using the country’s self-exclusion register at the end of Q1 – an increase of more than 6 per cent against the previous quarter.

It reported that 101 companies had active licences in the Swedish market, 71 of them online.

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