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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

Finland: Eurosport Fined €800,000 for Gambling Ads

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The National Police Board (NPB) has imposed a conditional fine of EUR 800,000 on an international broadcaster Eurosport 1 television channel recently for marketing of gambling services in Finland.

Earlier, on 16 September, the NPB prohibited Eurosport SAS (Eurosport) from marketing gambling services in Mainland Finland.

The prohibition remains valid for a period of three months and shall apply from 30 days after the date of service of the decision, unless otherwise directed by the appeal authority.

The NPB has detected that the marketing of gambling services has occurred regularly, extensively and for several years in the Eurosport 1. Gambling services have been marketed in advertisements during commercial breaks in television broadcasting.

“The supervision process in accordance with our legislation gives companies the opportunity to alter their operations and have their views heard,” said Anna-Emilia Sirén, Senior Adviser, Gambling Administration at the NPB.

Despite a number of exhortations, Eurosport has, however, continued the marketing that is considered unlawful by the authority.

Before imposing the marketing ban, the NPB has issued a statement to the company about the marketing of gambling and informed the company of the fact that only Veikkaus holds the exclusive right to market gambling services in Mainland Finland.

In its statement, the NPB, among other things, said that the marketing of gambling services on the channel violates Finland’s national legislation, regardless of the marketing being carried out from outside the Finnish borders.

Eurosport has not provided a response to the statement issued by the National Police Board in March 2021.

“The starting point for supervision is that the full range of methods, from the lenient to the strict, are used,” Sirén said, adding, “as an authority, we take the other party’s views into account, but if necessary, we prohibit the activity that we consider unlawful.”

With TV broadcasters in particular, there has been disagreement about the impact of EU law on the illegality of activities. The NPB has taken measures not only against Eurosport, but two other international TV broadcasters as well.

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Compliance Updates

UK’s Advertising Authority Upholds Complaint Against Napoleons Casinos

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The UK’s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has upheld a complaint regarding a website and Facebook post for Napoleons Casinos.

The site, which is owned by The A&S Leisure Group Ltd, stated on its home page; “Enjoy unlimited gambling in all of our Napoleons Casinos …”, with an answer on its FAQ page regarding becoming a member stating: “If you produce appropriate ID you will have access to unrestricted gambling …”. There was also a post on its Facebook page stating: “Napoleons Casino & Restaurant…Unlimited Gaming Entry into Prize Draws Access to all our UK Branches”.

The complainant challenged whether such claims were socially responsible, with the ASA also challenging whether the claim “unrestricted gambling” was also irresponsible.

The complaint was upheld, with the ads found to be in breach of Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) Code rules 16.1, 16.3 and 16.3.1. The CAP Code stated that ads must not portray, condone or encourage socially irresponsible gambling behaviour, or gambling behaviour that could lead to financial, social or emotional harm.

“The ASA understood that under the applicable Money Laundering Regulations, limits were set as to the amounts that members and non-members of Napoleons Casinos were allowed to spend or cash out at the casino,” a statement from the ASA read.

“However, we considered that most consumers would be unaware that the claim ‘unlimited gambling’ referred specifically to those limits set by the regulations.

“We considered that the claim “unlimited gaming” was likely to have the same meaning as “unlimited gambling” since gaming in a casino inevitably required that consumers spent money.”

The ASA has since reiterated to The A&S Leisure Group Ltd to ensure that its future ads must not give the impression that customers can gamble without limits or restrictions.

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Compliance Updates

MGA launches Consultation on the Revised Audit Service Provider Guidelines

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MGA launches Consultation on the Revised Audit Service Provider Guidelines
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The Malta Gaming Authority invites the gaming industry, service providers as well as wider interest groups to express their views and provide their feedback in relation to the Revised Audit Service Provider Guidelines (‘Guidelines’).

In 2018, the Authority introduced a process whereby service providers interested in performing relevant auditing work (‘Service Providers’) are required to apply to the MGA for their suitability to be assessed and approved. The process proved to be effective, providing the MGA with the appropriate mechanism to approve independent and competent Service Providers as well as remove or suspend providers in case of unsatisfactory performance. The Authority has recently reviewed the requirements applicable to audit services to ensure that they remain up to date in view of the ongoing developments in the sector and in line with the MGA’s expectations.

In view of the Authority’s commitment to an open and transparent decision-making process, the MGA is issuing this consultation paper to communicate and refine its proposal in relation to revised Guidelines and promote a greater understanding of the proposal itself. The consultation, which will run until 11 November 2021, seeks feedback from the industry in relation to:

  • the amendments introduced in the Guidelines (as listed in Section 3 of the Consultation document); and
  • the extension of the applicability of the Guidelines to statutory audits carried out in accordance with international financial reporting standards as required by Article 41(2) of the Gaming Authorisations and Compliance Directive (Directive 3 of 2018).

Following the consultation process, the Authority intends to publish its decision, including the final version of the Guidelines and any other supporting documents, by the end of the year 2021.

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