BOS, the Swedish Trade Association for Online Gambling, has issued its response to the decision of Prime Minister Stefan Löfven to end his leadership tenure , predicting what the political circumstance will mean for the future of the gambling industry.
The Prime Minister’s resignation followed a vote of no confidence in his government by the Riksdag, last week. This decision left Löfven with the choice of either requesting a dissolution of his government or calling an election within three months.
Now that the Prime Minister has taken the decision to end the current administration, it is the task of the Speaker of the Riksdag to assign the role to a new leader. The speaker will have four attempts to suggest a new Prime Minister, and should all be rejected by parliament an extra election will be held within three months, followed by the scheduled general election in September 2021.
In the meantime, the incumbent government will – as dictated by Swedish governmental traditions – continue to run the country’s day-to-day functionalities without making any ‘politically sensitive’ issues, until a new government with the full backing of the legislature is accepted.
In his official statement, Gustaf Hoffstedt, BOS Secretary General, remarked that the trade association viewed the political developments as being ‘positive’.
“The reason for this is that the incumbent Minister, Mr Ardalan Shekarabi, repeatedly has shown that he doesn’t have a functioning gambling market as his first priority,” Hoffstedt detailed.
“The possibility to pick political points by criticising and making life miserable for the privately owned and international gambling industry always comes first, hand in hand with his willingness to offer state owned and/or state governed gambling operators special treatment.”
Hoffstedt acknowledged that the return of Prime Minister Löfven and Minister Shekarabi to their respective positions in a future government is still a possibility due to the opposition facing difficulties in forming a parliamentary acceptable administration.
However, he argued that the developments would ‘at least slow down the process to impose stricter regulation on private international gambling’ as well as provide ‘further benefits to operators with close ties to the government’.
He added: “The development is also positive in the aspect that it shows that the government acts without support from the Parliament in gambling regulatory issues. During the years in office Minister Shekarabi has wasted the support from the opposition he had prior to the Swedish reregulation.
“Almost all political parties agreed on the agenda regarding gambling regulation five to ten years ago. Nowadays the opposition often criticises the Minister for his action in areas related to gambling, claiming that he has abandoned the agenda that jointly was decided prior to the reregulation in 2019.”
As it stands, BOS currently predicts two political outcomes as a result of Löfven’s decision, with the first being the return of the Prime Minister at the head of a centre-left government, which would see the continuation of the current course of action should Shekarabi return to a position of authority over the gambling industry.
Overseeing an overhaul of Sweden’s gambling regulations, the incumbent Social Democratic Party initiated its ‘Gambling Market Enquiry’ in 2020, which made a number of recommendations of legislative changes and oversight, some of which were accepted by the the Gambling Inspectorate, Spelinspektionen, whilst others were rejected.
Additionally, the administration – via the Ministry of Finance – published a memorandum earlier this month suggesting a change in gambling marketing regulations from ‘moderation’ to ‘special moderation’, prompting a negative response from BOS.
The consultation period for this proposal will continue to 14 October – largely in tandem with the Gunnar Larsson inquiry on channelisation and anti-match fixing, due to be finalised on 30 September. BOS has noted that the handling of both the proposal and the inquiry depends heavily on the political circumstances in October.
Furthermore, BOS has stated that it believes ‘that the government intended to propose an extensive gambling bill covering many regulatory topics to the Rikstag prior to the next general election’, but added that although preparations may continue ‘it is likely that the process is slowing down’, a development again described as ‘positive’.
Finally, the incumbent Swedish government under Löfven has also introduced a raft of temporary COVID-19 restrictions, which BOS has argued will be ‘difficult for the government to extend beyond 14 November’ due to aforementioned Swedish political tradition, but at the same time will be more difficult to shorten down for the same reason.
The alternative scenario, the trade association concluded, is that a centre-right government will be formed under the leadership of the Moderate Party. According to BOS, the long-term ramifications of this for the gambling industry are difficult to predict.
Some Moderate Party politicians hold ‘positive and liberal’ attitudes to the sector whilst others maintain more negative opinions ‘shaped in beliefs of public health, religion and conservatism’, and so the consequences of a right-leaning government for the betting and gaming market are not set in stone.