With more people at home or with extended amounts of free time during coronavirus lockdowns, governments around the world have moved to try and prevent problem gambling behaviours from becoming a major concern.
The situation is no different in Sweden, where Covid-19 continues to run rampage, and ministers have confirmed that they plan to extend the gambling restrictions they imposed on online casino players and sports bettors into 2021.
Ardalan Shekarabi, the minister for social security, said: “We see that the development of Covid-19 is going in the wrong direction in several parts of the country. The situation is very serious.
“In the wake of the pandemic, we see continued risks in the field of gambling, which means that we need to act to reduce the risks for vulnerable consumers.”
Some of the temporary measures that were implemented from the start of July include a weekly limit of SEK 5,000 (around £430) on deposits at casino sites, ad the same amount again as a loss limit when playing land-based slots.
Players are also required to set their own time limits when playing their favourite games – they are logged out of their account when that period has elapsed, while casinos themselves are restricted to offering bonuses to new players of no more than SEK 100 (roughly £8.75).
After a period of consultation, the government has confirmed that the measures will be extended until June 2021 at the earliest, and that is a move that has been slammed by Branscheforenigen för Onlinespel (BOS), the Swedish gambling operator association, as a potential calamity for the industry.
Beating the System
BOS believe that the restrictions could prove to be counter-productive, and that the limits could actually increase the possibility of problem gambling by forcing bettors to take extreme measures.
It has to be said that BOS has a vested interest in the restrictions being lifted given that they represent the best interests of gambling firms in Sweden, but two points they make certainly seem to have some weight.
The first is that ‘creative’ gamblers will simply spread their gaming across multiple sites, using that as a way of circumnavigating the weekly deposit limit given how complex it can be to track players at multiple platforms.
And, perhaps more pressingly, the restrictions push players into the arms of offshore firms where no limits are in place – costing the Swedish government taxable income, or worst still to the black market of gambling.
BOS have been opposed to the restrictions from the get-go, and believe that the negatives far outweigh the positives. Their secretary general, Gustaf Hoffstedt, said: “Even before the first restrictions were introduced this summer, the leakage from the Swedish licensing system was 25% for online casinos. What the leak is today and what will happen to the extended restriction is a scary thought.
“The government throws Swedish gaming consumers out of the licensing system and into a market where consumer protection is zero.”
Another matter that BOS believes that the government needs to address is that an expected ‘spike’ in online casino gambling during the pandemic has since failed to materialise. “This was known to all players in the gaming market, such as (the Swedish regulator) Spelinspektionen, us and the government, but unfortunately the government persisted in the erroneous claim that online casinos would have increased and special restrictions were therefore called for that form of gaming,” Hoffstedt concluded.