While the whole world faces a completely new reality and every single industry has already been impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak, the online gambling sector is flourishing. Even by the end of March, the reports have shown that the number of online casino users has increased significantly in just two months. This is good news from the one side. For online casino operators this is a huge success, and fore people it is additional entertainment during the quarantine. On the other side of the coin, there increased the number of active gamblers, maybe the new reason to worry and to become the concern for the increased number of gambling addicts shortly.
European countries have been working on this topic for quite some time already and try to make efficient moves in order to prevent addictions and create the most efficient and healthy gambling environment for the players. Sweden’s gamblers are now facing the new regulations and limits on their activity after the government proposed the temporary rule to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Earlier this week, the Swedish government made an announcement regarding the new limits in the online gambling industry, Sweden’s Social Security Minister Ardalan Shekarani uncovered the proposal and the limitations initiated y the government. The proposal involves the limitation of certain bonuses and promotions due to pandemic. The proposal will be open to the public until the 7th of May. It will be put in force on the 1st of June and will last until the end of the year.
Within the proposal, there is a number of factors that need to be taken into account. The proposal includes the gambling deposit limit, which is $500 per week. There will also be the corresponding loss limit for the pokies machines. Setting limits will be mandatory for all players with online casinos. The limits also concern the bonuses. The amount of bonuses is limited to SEK100 only.
The move from the government was not very unexpected for the Swiss people. It was almost a month ago when Shekarabi touched the gambling subject for the first time. He warned the citizens regarding the potential harm caused by online gambling. Already by that time, the government had an increased number of gamblers and warned for the possible limitations and restrictions in order to prevent the harm caused by one of the most dangerous and addictive form of gambling. He stressed on the importance of new regulations, as he understood that the lack of sports events and general activities would force people to seek for some new entertainment methods, which apparently online casinos came at hand.
Shekarabi added that this increased online casino activity was occurring at a time when Swedes face “increased risk of unemployment, sick leave and financial uncertainty,” a dangerous mix that compels the government to “act quickly to protect Swedish consumers.”
With the new limitations and the regulations being implemented, it is necessary that the regulatory authority works efficiently and properly. For this reason, the Spelinspektionen gambling regulator will be in charge of monitoring the market and submitting the monthly reports to the government. The reports should be detailing market development, take steps to “significantly” increase public awareness of the Spelpaus self-exclusion registry, and propose other measures to strengthen the protection of consumers who set gambling limits.
One more task that the gambling operator will be in charge of, is monitoring the unauthorized gambling operators. Sweden has previously implemented certain restrictions that made the unlicensed operators leave the Swedish market. The small amount of those operators still manages to operate. Thus, the Spelinspektionen is tasked with strengthening the supervision of unauthorized gambling operators, including internationally licensed gambling sites that serve Swedish customers without the regulator’s permission.
Comments regarding the new limitations and regulations have been made by Camilla Rosenberg, who is the General Director of Spelinspektionen. She applauded to the minister’s announcement and welcomed the new initiative. She said that it is essential to dedicate time and means to the gambling sectors and to fight against illegal gambling. She also added that it is the essential and primary responsibility of higher authorities to take care of their citizens’ safety and security.
In her speech, Rosenberg said that the whole organization is ready to comply with the new demand and thus make immediate and significant adjustments.
The European Gaming & Betting Association (EGBA) issued a statement saying the new restrictions “could do more harm to consumer protection than actually provide help to those who might need it.” The new curbs “are not targeted, but could rather encourage customers to play with” internationally licensed sites over which Sweden has no authority.
Maarten Haijer, head of EGBA noted that Sweden’s gambling advertising spending was on the decline and the EGBA had yet to see “evidence that average customer spend is up.” Despite that Haijer noted that there is no specific evidence showing that the arbitrary restrictions are having a positive impact, it is well tested and acknowledged fact that the expenditure limitation can assist in tackling the highest-spending gamblers’ problem.
Some of the operators, that are licensed in Sweden have already limited their promotions and bonuses for the newcomers and the first time users. Though, as far as it seems this is only the beginning and the casino operators will have to limit themselves and costumers a bit longer as well as avoid creating any unnecessary ambiguity.