iGF Exclusive: The Future of Swedish iGaming 2030
It’s now been five-years since Sweden re-regulated its online casino market.
So what better time to take stock of the state of Swedish play, discuss the challenges and issues and try an expert hand to predict the future of Swedish iGaming.
Jonas Virtanen of Slotsoo–a multilingual, Sweden-based, comparison site for online casinos and slots run by a tight-knit group of slot enthusiasts–has done just that in a unique and far-ranging survey, representing all the major stakeholders in the Swedish iGaming firmament, reflective of the gambling industry pretty much everywhere.
And in something of an exclusive, Jonas has allowed iGamingFuture to run with the results first.
Casino Operator Romix Limited, Gambling Researcher Anders Nilsson, Veteran Player Pelle Rylander, Professional Writer John Hansson and Affiliate Marketer Maria Johnsson were the nominated stakeholders who took part in the Future of Swedish iGaming 2030 survey.
Here’s a synopsis of their expert, insightful and often fascinating response to the Slotsoo survey:
The Channelization Rate Highly Dependent on Government Actions.
The industry agrees that government action is what will affect the channelization rate the most; although opinions differ regarding which direction the development will go.
The casino operator Romix Limited says that everything depends on whether licensed operators will be given the opportunity to compete under the same conditions as operators without the Swedish license. By easing the requirements for casinos with a license, and giving the Spelinspektionen (licensing authority) more muscle to fight unlicensed alternatives, the state can get more and more players to stick to the local license.
Some respondents are optimistic that this will happen, such as the writer Johan Hansson. He believes it will always be easier to play in Swedish casinos, thanks to familiar payment methods and Swedish-language support, and therefore believes that the channelization rate will be at least 80 percent in 2030.
Game researcher Anders Nilsson points out that there are two different ways of calculating the degree of channelization (turnover or people) and that it is important to distinguish between them in discussions. According to him, there will always be people who want to play at foreign casinos. But with the right strategy, there can be a marginal improvement.
Other respondents believe that it is more likely that gambling at casinos without a Swedish license will increase in the next seven years.
This is how Pelle Rylander, who has been an active casino player for many years, answers:
“The fact that about 75 percent play at Swedish licensed casinos is said to be because they choose safety over bonuses and loyalty programs, which I think is pure propaganda from the state. Were Mr Green, Betsson and the others less reliable when their license was from Malta? When people realize that “unlicensed” casinos are as safe as the Swedish ones, more and more people will turn to them.”
The Majority of Respondents Believe that Sweden Will Have More Relaxed Bonus Rules in 2030.
Only gambling researcher Anders Nilsson believes that Sweden will not let go of its bonus restriction (one bonus per player, per license holder). Maria Johnsson, Johan Hansson and Pelle Rylander instead predict that the state will have to relax the rules in order to keep the players.
Romix Limited, which operates Betinia, Campobet and YoYo Casino, is critical of the current limitation of “one bonus per license”. The rule is not good for the gaming experience and causes Swedes to search for new sites. Since this bonus restriction does not exist in other countries, it also gives foreign sites a big advantage.
Many players are also unaware that the limit applies per license holder and the operator often receives complaints from disappointed customers who thought they could get a welcome bonus per site, despite the company being clear about the limitation in its bonus terms.
Romix Limited is asking politicians and decision-makers to review the bonus restrictions and develop a continued responsible, but less restrictive, model. More bonuses, with reasonable restrictions on wagering requirements, for example, would improve the players’ experience.
Johan Hansson goes along the same lines and reminds that not all casino bonus types are equal from a responsible gambling perspective:
“It’s not the bonuses that create gambling addiction, it’s the VIP and loyalty programs. It would be good to review the system so that Swedish casinos have the opportunity to offer more deposit bonuses, but not based on how much you played for. I think we will see more bonuses in 2030 to keep Swedish players in the Swedish market.”
The Swedish Casino Drought Is Predicted to Continue.
It has been a long time since Sweden saw new casinos being launched and the respondents agree that this drought will continue. Johan Hansson does not believe that there will be any significant difference in the number of licensed gambling companies before there are relaxations in the bonus rules.
Pelle Rylander predicts that the number of casinos will decrease slightly around each New Year, when many of the operators’ licenses expire. He guesses that in 2030 there will only be 45-50 operators left. In June 2023 the number was 57. Maria Johnsson follows a similar train of thought and mentions that so far only one new casino has been launched in 2023 and that was from Svenska Spel.
Romix Limited sees two trends that even-out the numbers. On one hand, more and more operators choose to obtain separate licenses for their various casino sites. But on the other hand, there is a continued consolidation of the gambling market happening through mergers and acquisitions, while the fierce competition is forcing some operators to leave the market.
Anders Nilsson also does not believe that many completely new players will appear, either on the operator or supplier front, precisely because of today’s competitive situation with some very strong players.
The industry is sceptical of the new licence requirement for game providers, which the government introduced with the aim of making unlicensed casinos less attractive. Johan Hansson believes that it could have the opposite effect in case many game providers choose to skip Sweden in the future.
Maria Johnsson also predicts possible loopholes to escape the requirement:
“It all depends on how well Spelinspektionen will ensure that the rules are followed and how far the Swedish law’s tentacles extend to foreign casinos that do not target the Swedish market. Perhaps game providers will create separate subsidiaries, so that they can continue to offer everyone’s favourite games abroad without having to fear sanctions.”
The Sale of Svenska Spel Is Unlikely, but not Impossible.
The industry has long pressured the state to sell Svenska Spel’s Online Casino and Sports Betting division. The mood ahead of 2030 is cautiously hopeful among the study participants. Romix Limited mentions that everything is for sale at the right price, but that there will not be a deal in the near future given that Svenska Spel delivers a steady income to its owners.
Pelle Rylander also believes that the state will stick to its cash cow. He replies that a sale seems remote given that in the Spring they launched the new brand Momang casino. Maria Johnsson agrees and believes that Svenska Spel will maintain its position as number one for many years to come.
Johan Hansson believes that it is problematic for the state to run its own online casino operation at the same time that they are legislators and rule makers. He therefore believes that Svenska Spel will sell its competitive operations before the end of the decade.
Anders Nilsson believes that much depends on the winners in the next general election:
“Whether parts of Svenska Spel are sold or not depends largely on political priorities. It is, after all, a profitable state-owned company, whose income must then be taken from somewhere else. If the current constellation continues even after the next election, it is probably not at all impossible that it will be sold.”
The Industry’s Final Warning: Don’t Regulate the Market too Hard!
In the study’s final open question, interviewees were asked to speculate on how they believe the gaming industry will change by 2030.
Anders Nilsson suggested that Spelinspektionen will be more eager to hand out fines in its fight to improve the channelization. He also believes that lawmakers will look more closely at Affiliate advertising and other areas not currently covered by gambling laws. In addition, he mentions that in the future we will see more research based on actual data from the casino operators.
Maria Johnsson also believes that the gambling affiliate business will be put under the microscope in the coming years. She predicts that LiveSpins will be launched in Sweden. This new way of playing involves joining a live streamer’s game session, and then you can spin slots and chat together.
Pelle Rylander speculates that the licensed gaming companies will find new ways to sneak around the bonus restrictions, similar to casino exclusive jackpots and free tournaments that some companies already offer. He also believes that we will see AI used to a greater extent to interpret and analyse player habits.
Johan Hansson, in turn, predicts that more rules will be introduced against artificial intelligence. He also says that there is a risk that the state will regulate so hard that the companies choose to leave Sweden.
Romix Limited has similar predictions and urges policy makers to think carefully before imposing even more restrictions:
“We would imagine–given the current, somewhat negative, political climate surrounding online gambling, which can also be observed in other countries–that further restrictions could be introduced; for example, when it comes to restrictions on the marketing of gambling. We do hope that policy makers will see the benefits of encouraging having an attractive, competitive, and vibrant market that seeks to retain players within the safe and stable licence system.”
A Note To Readers:
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