Don’t Illegalise It: Sweden Extends Online Controls

Sweden’s botched Covid response and its government’s draconian online gaming controls during the pandemic have fuelled illegal gambling in the country, it was claimed this week.

According to a recent report by Sweden’s State Treasury, only 85 per cent of gambling action in the nation took place with operators licensed in Sweden.

“The leakage for online casinos is particularly high, as much as every fourth gaming krona is played outside the Swedish licensed market,” said Gustaf Hoffstedt, Chair of the Branscheforenigen för Onlinespel (BOS), Sweden’s association of the online gaming industry. 

“The government seems unaware that its own expert authority [stated] just over a week ago that the leakage from the Swedish gaming market to the unregulated gaming market is alarmingly high,” he continued.

Hoffstedt was responding to reports that the Swedish government is to extend its tough pandemic online gaming controls, under review, to at least November 14.

Monthly deposit limits will now continue to be set at SEK5,000 (£427/US$585/€492) and bonuses limited to SEK100 (£8.54/US$11.71/€10).

The controls were initiated last July amid the controversy of Sweden’s failed Covid policy of lesser intervention in pursuit of so-called “herd immunity”; one which neglected the tough lock-down policies of Scandinavian neighbours.

“The spread of Covid-19 is still high in Sweden,” conceded Sweden’s Minister of Social Insurance, Ardalan Shekarabi. “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.”

In addition to the monthly deposit cap, there will also be limits set on online casinos and gaming machines.

But Hoffstedt argues the move will only boost illegal gaming. Unlicensed firms don’t offer the same safeguards as licenced operators, he said.

“The Swedish government’s rhetoric about caring for the consumer does the opposite,” said Hoffsedt. “It’s hurting the licensed market [which has] strong consumer protection.”