The novel COVID-19 virus has affected every sphere and industry all across the world. More than a million people are infected with the novel virus, and over 100,000 people have been killed. Countries are struggling to fight back the virus. Many are desperately fighting the virus in hope that something might yet work and they can save a lot of people.
The major hit after China was taken by Europe, specifically by Italy. The circumstances in Italy are very far from being mild or even stable. More than 100,000 people are infected due to date and almost 20,000 people have died. The World Health Organization announced the virus outbreak as the pandemic at the beginning of March and since then the emergency circumstances have been implemented in almost every country all over the world. It can be said that this is the second month that the Earth is closed so far, and we are all in it together.
People all over the world are encouraged to stay home and do not leave without extreme necessity. This is advised in order to prevent the further spread of the virus as it is extremely contagious. The countries have gone into lockdown and have closed the borders. Many cities are isolated and thousands of people are in quarantine. All non-essential businesses have been closed all over the world. Basically we are left with groceries and pharmacies. The basics for the livelihood.
While the majority of countries have gone into lockdown and even introduced the curfews, Sweden is one of the outstanding countries. The country decided not to close the businesses, but limit certain social norms. People are also advised to work from home if it is available and keep the social distance while gathering. The government has not introduced any severe measures but instead relies on the high ethical and social responsibility of its citizens.
Sweden is not only outstanding in these terms, but one more pattern is very interesting. Casinos all over the world have been shut down due to safety measures. They are closed for an uncertain amount of time. While it seems like the land-based gambling industry is sinking deeper day by day, the online gambling industry is flourishing instead. Though, this does not concern Sweden. The government plans to ban online gambling during the pandemic.
Temporary Shut Down
According to the reports, the ministers of the country encourage the government to shut down the online casinos temporarily, during the COVID-19 outbreak. The reason behind this is to prevent and avoid increased gambling-related harm during the coronavirus pandemic. As many people stay home and entertain themselves with everything they can, one of the main entertainment measures is online gambling.
The country’s gambling regulator Spelinspektionen confirmed that the government is considering various measures to protect consumers in the country, at a time when restrictions on movement are in place.
Ardalan Shekarabi, the Minister of Social Security of Sweden, is the responsible person for the gambling policy of the country. Last week he made the announcement that the extraordinary measures are to be taken in the sake of the well being of citizens and to prevent further addictions and harm caused by the gambling activity. He also stressed on the fact that the measures will only be implemented in case the operators do not take the responsibility to protect consumers at a time casino play is at its highest. The initiative was met by the round of applause and positive feedback from the industry stakeholders.
According to the research, conducted by one of the affiliate marketing specialists using the data provided by the Spelinspektionen, there is a significant increase of over 33% in the online casino registration and logins. This tendency is visible even from the pandemic regime. There are 60 licensed operators available in the local market.
This came after research carried out by the industry experts last month found that almost a third of Swedish online casino players were searching for unlicensed casinos. More and more consumers were moving offshore as a result of the market’s restrictive regulations. The statement was made by the managing director of the company, Finta Costello.
This proposed shut-down of online casinos, instead of protecting players, was likely to prompt thousand more players to sign up to these black market sites, he added. This, in turn would cause further financial damage to the licensed market, is read in the statement.
“The Swedish government will make a colossal mistake if it chooses to temporarily close down online casino sites in an attempt to protect players,” Costello explained.
“As our research has shown, almost a third of online casino players are already looking to the black market for a more attractive offering since restrictive rules were imposed in January 2019. These latest plans would create an immediate black-market boom.”
Costello claimed that Swedish legislation already requires operators to implement strict responsible gaming safeguards, which he argued meant that the necessary player protection measures are already in place.
“The focus should instead be on ensuring these are adhered to rather than taking a knee jerk reaction to close down all legitimate brands and forcing even more players to unprotected sites,” he said.
Gustaf Hoffstedt, the Secretary-General of the Branschföreningen för Onlinespel (BOS), Sweden’s trade association for online gambling, said that while he wasn’t yet sure which action the government would take. However, any additional restrictions on the market would prove a boon to unlicensed operators, he said. Hoffstedt said Sweden’s current rate of channelization towards the licensed market is at about 75%, well below the government’s goal of 90%.
“Sweden is struggling with low channelization rates when it comes to online casinos, regardless of any possible additional restrictions for Swedish licensed operators,” Hoffstedt said. “To worsen the conditions for the Swedish licensed operators would not be a particularly smart move.”
it is not only about Sweden. Many countries are facing the same problems and are trying to find the best possible solution out of the situation. The British Gambling Commission, Danish regulator Spillemyndigheden and the Belgian Gaming Commission have all issued advice to players to help them ensure they don’t develop problems with their gambling.
The European Betting and Gaming Association is also actively participating in preventing further harm caused by the gambling-related activity. The association has already issued a series of guidelines for marketing during the crisis. The guideline covers multiple countries and their legislations. The Betting and Gaming Council also issued the ten-point action plan, highlighting the importance of consumer protection, urging member states to ensure the protection measures are taken seriously in the countries.
Unlike many other countries, Spain introduced additional limitations on advertising. Within the limits, the online operators are not eligible for the bonus promotions during this period either. In Belgium players can only make the €500 deposit weekly, which is the maximum they can spend with the online casino operators.
While the following steps are yet uncertain and there is no clear action movie, should Sweden shut down even temporarily the online casino, it will become the latest market to take additional player protection measures during the COVID-19 global pandemic.