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Compliance Updates

Is Political Tension Changing Sweden’s Gambling Laws?

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Is Political Tension Changing Sweden's Gambling Laws?
Photo: Christine Olsson/TT via AP
Reading Time: 3 minutes

 

Sweden has had a hectic year in the political world, with the coronavirus, the government drama, and backlash from the online gaming industry.

Sweden started in 2019 with a prime minister that barely made it into office. Facing a pandemic and then heavy restrictions of gambling, he quickly began to lose support. It finally came to a head when his party lost faith in him and voted no confidence. Löfven ended up resigning, stating it was because the government needed someone whose party would back them. Out of a job for only a month, he was re-elected by Parliament and chose to come back. Though Löfven has said, he would resign again if not able to pass the budget through parliament in autumn.

It’s not only Löfven who has been the target of heavy criticism. One of his closest allies, Ardalan Shekarabi, the minister for Consumer Affairs, has had his share of criticism as well. This stems from his work to regulate the gambling industry in the country. The primary criticism is connected to the fact that the government has interests in two gambling companies, Svenska Spel and ATG. Svenska Spel is fully owned and controlled by the government, and ATG is partially owned. This creates a very sensitive situation because they compete with private gambling companies. Svenska Spel has an unprecedented position among all the betting companies in the country, largely due to their many exclusive products. Furthermore, ATG enjoys a monopoly on all forms of horse racing which is extremely popular in Sweden. Hundreds of millions SEK is wagered every month in their exclusive horse betting products, and the monopoly enables ATG an exclusive opportunity to cross promote and expose their users to casino games and sports betting.

Strict rules proves hard to follow

On another note, there are a lot of rules in place that frustrates the gambling operators. One of the many rules in the new regulation package has to do with bonus offers. The bonus offers can not exceed the value of 100 SEK (about €10) and is only a one time offer per license and customer. Since many companies operate several casinos under the same license, customer confusion arises when they are ineligible to receive a bonus from a casino that appears “new” to them. In order to make sense of where to actually find a new casino bonus, it presupposes that the customer is fully informed about all the casinos and the license from which they operate. For many people it demands an extreme amount of research even though there are websites such as bastacasinobonus.se which tries to assist in this process.

There have been many cases where a licensed operator has been found guilty of breaching the current bonus rules. ATG and Svenska Spel have repeatedly done so themselves, but gotten out of it with warnings or minor fines. Other companies though have been fined amounts up to 100 million SEK in seemingly small instances such as when a refer-a-friend program was deemed illegal.

Recently the SGA (Swedish Gambling Association) lost a court case against Betsson Nordic. SGA claimed the gambling company was offering illegal bonuses and incentives. SGA tried to fine over SEK 20 million(£1.6m), saying it added costs over the years. The court, however, ruled in favour of Betsson Nordic, saying the fine lacked legal grounds. Usually though, the betting companies has little success contesting the rulings.

Sweden’s Government Facing Heavy Criticism

The Swedish Trade Association for Online Gambling, or BOS (Branschföreningen för Onlinespel), represents gambling companies and game developers that target Swedish consumers. With members, BOS promotes integrity and responsibility within the industry, a safe gaming market, and shares knowledge of the industry. They also consider social protection to be given priority.

BOS has called out to the government to end the recently extended temporary restrictions following criticism of constraints by the Committee on the Constitution. As time continues on, more and more organisations and people advocate for the lift in the temporary laws. The Committee on the Constitution has the task of preparing matters concerning the Constitution. It also examines the work of the Government and government officials and is to inform the Riksdag of the results.

BOS also believes the government wanted to introduce a new gambling bill to the Riksdag before the general election. Possible extending the already extended gambling laws. Löfven has said that they are not focusing on new bills at the moment, as the fragile government is taking priority.

So when will laws change?

With all the chaos, it is hard to say if there are any changes coming soon to Sweden. Things are constantly being talked about, and dates are being proposed. However, the only concrete dates we have are the temporary gambling restrictions being removed in November of this year.

Compliance Updates

Romania Bans Gambling Venues in Small Towns and Villages

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Romania has announced a ban on gambling venues in small towns and villages with populations of less than 15,000 residents.

What’s known as the “law of slot machines” was passed by deputies in the lower house of parliament. “It is the first law adopted in Parliament in 30 years against this mafia that has controlled the political world until now,” said Alfred Simonis, the leader of the Social Democrats.

“Right now we are fighting an industry that has a total turnover of €10-12 billion.”

Industry figures complain they were not consulted, and hope that the authorities will control the black market as they promised.

Despite the unanimous vote, there was some dissent within the chamber. Two opposition parties that want to ban the “scourge” of gambling outright accuse the government of collusion with the gaming sector for not taking a stronger position.

On another front Ionut Mosteanu, the leader of the opposition USR, questioned how lawmakers had set the threshold.

“They thought that slot machines only damage 15,000 people,” he said. “There was not even a debate to see how many townships qualify for this 15,000. Why not 16, 17, why not two million and you would ban them definitively?”

Gambling venues have become ubiquitous across Romania over the last few decades. The National Gaming Office, the state body that monitors and approves the sector, has registered 12,000 sports betting, bingo, casino, lottery rooms.

The state collects taxes from gambling venue licenses and online ticket sales as from the amount betting houses spend on advertising.

There are no recent data to indicate how many people in Romania are addicted to gambling. The last survey was conducted in 2016, and found that there could be around 100,000 addicted people across the country. The number today could be much higher.

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Compliance Updates

Bet on Compliance: Navigating the Stakes with the UK’s Affordability Checks

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Reading Time: 4 minutes

 

By Isabelle Zanzer, Head of Regulatory Content at ComplianceOne Group

Feeling like the deck is stacked against you with all these talks of financial checks in gambling? Wondering if this new game plan will leave your privacy on a losing streak? If so, no need to bet on uncertainty anymore. We’re here to deal you in on the UK’s latest gamble towards responsible betting. Let’s shuffle through the details and lay our cards on the table, as we make sure you’re holding a winning hand in understanding what’s in play. Ready to roll the dice and dive in? Follow me.

On July 26, 2023, the UK Gambling Commission launched consultations on proposed reforms in the Gambling White Paper, focusing on areas like direct marketing, age verification, game design, and financial risk checks. This article delves into the latter, highlighting new financial vulnerability and risk assessments to safeguard customers.

The UK’s consultation introduces two checks for gambling: light-touch financial vulnerability checks and detailed financial risk assessments. The first tier of checks is designed to identify financial vulnerabilities such as bankruptcy orders or significant debts, using publicly available data. The second tier involves enhanced financial risk assessments triggered by significant losses, requiring more comprehensive scrutiny of a customer’s financial situation.

Thus, in simple terms, what is going to happen at the heart of the UKGC’s new measures are two-tiered affordability checks designed to assess the financial vulnerability and risk of consumers engaging in online gambling. The first tier involves unintrusive checks that will be triggered when a customer reaches a specified net loss within a rolling period, using publicly available data to identify potential financial vulnerabilities. To dive a little deeper, this check will be conducted if a customer either has net losses of £125 in a rolling 30 days or £500 within a rolling 365 days. It would need to include “at a minimum a customer-specific public record information check for significant indicators of potential financial vulnerability”, including whether the customer is subject to things such as a bankruptcy order, county court judgment, or individual voluntary arrangement. Net loss would be defined as loss of deposited monies with an operator, not counting restacked winnings or bonus funds.

The second tier represents a more detailed assessment of financial risk, which is activated at higher loss thresholds. A comprehensive financial review is required for gamblers with significant losses, examining their financial data including credit status and spending. If third-party data is unavailable, operators may directly seek customer consent for access, ensuring a thorough understanding of financial health.

The gambling industry’s reception of these checks has been cautiously optimistic, particularly regarding the initial, less invasive tier. However, the prospect of more detailed financial assessments has sparked debate, not only among operators but also among consumers wary of privacy infringement.

As the UK gambling sector adapts to these new regulations, the challenge will be to strike an optimal balance between safeguarding consumers and maintaining the operational viability of gambling platforms. The pilot study represents a critical step in this process, offering valuable insights into the practical implications of affordability checks and the potential need for adjustments in response to industry feedback and consumer concerns.

The outcome of the pilot study and subsequent parliamentary debates are pivotal in shaping the future of affordability checks in the UK gambling sector. As operators, regulators, and consumers navigate these changes, the overarching goal remains clear: to foster a safer, more responsible gambling environment that protects consumers from financial harm while ensuring the industry’s sustainable growth.

Striking the right balance in the new UK gambling regulations is like walking a tightrope. With the introduction of light-touch and in-depth financial risk assessments, operators may face the challenge of protecting players without overstepping into their privacy. These two-tiered checks aim to shield those at risk, using both public data and deeper financial insights.

The key here for operators will be to navigate these waters carefully, ensuring player safety while keeping the game fair and enjoyable. Now, when trying to find a balancing act, we need to consider the following:

  1. Regulatory Compliance Risk: Reviewing the existing practices against the UKGC’s affordability check guidelines, identifying discrepancies, and recommending changes to align with the new regulations.
  2. Data Privacy and Security Risk: Evaluating the ability to handle and protect sensitive financial data in line with GDPR and other data protection laws.
  3. Operational Risk: Assessing the impact of the new checks on daily operations and customer interactions.
  4. Financial Risk: Analysing the potential financial implications of the affordability checks on revenue and customer base.
  5. Reputational Risk: Considering the public and customer perception of the affordability checks, especially regarding privacy concerns, the key here, like in all relationships, is communication. For example, it is estimated that just the very highest spending 3 percent of accounts would undergo financial risk assessments. Most financial risk assessments – at least 80 percent – would be carried out through credit reference agencies. The checks are expected to be frictionless and not interrupt the customer journey unless concerns are raised. It is estimated that a further 10 percent of risk assessments will be done through limited data-sharing through third-party open-source banking, which is similarly straightforward from a customer perspective.

Finding this balance involves a tailored approach as one offered by ComplianceOne group, whereby operators can personalize checks based on individual player profiles, ensuring those at higher risk receive the attention they need while others continue to enjoy their play with minimal interruption. It’s about creating a safety net that catches those in need without trapping everyone else in unnecessary checks. The key to a winning strategy is the execute this balance, and understanding what is at stake: Reputation, Sustainability and Trust.

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Compliance Updates

IOC and UEFA host joint betting integrity workshop

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© IOC/Greg Martin
Reading Time: 2 minutes

 

Sports betting entities and international federations joined UEFA and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) on 11 April for a full-day workshop focused on how sport and the sports betting industry can work together to fight match-fixing. Co-organised by the IOC and UEFA, and held at Olympic House in Lausanne, the workshop explored opportunities for cross-sector collaboration with a focus on integrity exchange in support of the upcoming Olympic Games Paris 2024 and the UEFA Euro 2024.

The workshop kicked off with presentations by the Olympic Movement Unit on the Prevention of the Manipulation of Competitions (OM Unit PMC) and UEFA’s Anti-Match-Fixing Unit, exploring each team’s strategy for combatting match-fixing, engaging with the sports betting industry, and detecting and investigating potentially fraudulent betting activity.

UEFA promotes integrity through dedicated education, prevention, and awareness raising programmes and by detecting, investigating, and sanctioning match-fixing. Collaboration with stakeholders within football, particularly the network of integrity officers who work for UEFA’s 55 member associations, as well as the wider sports community is vital to this work.

UEFA upholds the integrity of all UEFA competitions via tailored, competition-specific integrity measures. Building on the integrity success of previous UEFA competitions, UEFA’s approach for EURO 2024 will feature close collaboration with host and participating nation stakeholders, public authorities, and sports betting entities as well as real-time betting market monitoring. Our secure UEFA integrity website will allow players, referees, officials, and members of the public to report suspected cases of match-fixing confidentially and anonymously. During the workshop, UEFA shared its competition risk assessment and mitigation strategy and explained the escalation, triage, and assessment approach for any potential integrity concerns.

“Sport alone cannot eradicate match-fixing. We must work together – raising awareness, sharing information, ensuring robust prevention and detection systems are in place – to protect sport and athletes. During the UEFA EURO 2024, our Germany-based staff (supported by the entire Anti-Match-Fixing Unit based in Nyon) will work hand-in-hand with betting integrity entities, betting operators and regulators, public authorities, and the national associations.” Vincent Ven, Head of Anti-Match-Fixing at UEFA

“The main objective is to ensure robust 24/7 monitoring of the competition in compliment to our dedicated prevention and education programme for all participating athletes and officials. UEFA’s multi-stakeholder Anti-Match-Fixing Assessment Group will manage pre and in-competition monitoring, ensuring that UEFA can immediately review and address any potential integrity threats to the tournament.”, Ven added.

“Collaboration is essential. During the upcoming Olympic Games in Paris, we will work together with a series of betting operators, associations and major betting regulatory authorities to exchange relevant information about irregular betting patterns or suspicious betting activities detected that might imply competition manipulation.” Friedrich Martens, Head of the OM Unit PMC

Panel discussions with several sport governing bodies and betting integrity entities provided insight into best practices, trends, and success stories from each sector’s perspective, whilst two betting operators took the floor to share examples of recent fruitful cooperation with UEFA and the IOC on prevention and investigations.

The afternoon featured frank discussion regarding how to enhance cooperation between sport and sports betting entities, recent trends in sports betting and their potential impact on sport integrity, and how to improve information sharing in support of match-fixing detection and investigation.

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