The Swedish government, with social security minister Ardalan Shekarabi yet again leading the crusade against the casino industry, has approved plans to introduce several restrictions for Sweden’s regulated online casino market as part of their effort to protect players from gambling related harm during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The restrictions will come into effect from 2 July and remain in place until the end of the year and will see players face an 5,000 SEK weekly deposit cap along with 100 SEK bonus limits.
The plan is approved in spite of the fact that overall online betting and gaming has declined by 6% for the year to date in Sweden – numbers that come from Spelinspektionen themselves. When the minister responsible was asked what facts the decision was based on, Ardalan could not give an answer, just repeating that “we have to protect the players”.
Anyone who knows anything about online gambling will immediately see the flaws in this approach and the irrationality behind it. Sweden already has one of the most effective responsible gambling tools in the world available for players to use.
With Spelpaus, players can self exclude themselves from a period of 1 to 12 months with no way of cheating the system. Introducing even more stringent rules sends signals that the regulatory authority does not trust its own system, nor that players will use it as intended even though some 50k+ players are currently self excluded with Spelpaus.
The iGaming industry has always been an easy target and a scapegoat for politicians to use, even more so now than ever before as the industry is dangerously close to over-regulation. Sweden, which has by far the highest Covid-19 death rate in Scandinavia, might see this as a way to score political points in a time where the government has completely failed to protect its people from the Corona virus.
Meanwhile, no measures whatsoever are taken to reduce alcohol consumption in spite of the fact that domestic violence has spiked during the pandemic. In Sweden, alcohol is only allowed to be sold in the government-owned chain of liquor stores know as ‘Systembolaget‘. Go figure.
So here we are. A blanket cap of 5,000 kr a week for ALL players in Sweden, even for those thousands of players who have no gambling issues at all, or players who can, and wish, to gamble more than that.
Players can still sign up to 10 different casinos and gamble 50,000 SEK in a week if they want, but many will undoubtedly turn to unlicensed casinos, which have already seen a surge in numbers by the way, where they won’t have to put up with any limits. In other words, unlicensed casinos are rubbing their hands whilst licensed operators, who are already struggling to find some value in the Swedish market, are infuriated by this decision.
The temporary ban raises some other concerns too. Players who win may feel the need to withdraw less in order to leave something back to avoid making further deposits. A quick look at the various casino communities around the web reveals that players themselves are not super thrilled about the decision either.
Unlicensed casinos have already proven popular with many players who feel that it’s too much of a hassle of playing at licensed casinos where they have to put up with deposit limits, spin limits, delayed spins, source of wealth requests, excessive ID checks, and so on.
If there is a will, there is a way. Swedish players who want to gamble more than the limits allow them to will do so. Unfortunately, the temporary ban is likely to have an adverse effect and may very well be the final straw that breaks the camel’s back, sparking a renewed interesting in the unlicensed casino market.