The introduction of loss limits and restrictions on bonus offers across all betting verticals would be a preferable option “in case of future crisis”, according to the Swedish Gambling Inspectorate, Spelinspektionen.
Publishing its interim report into the impacts of temporary limitations on online betting and gaming during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Inspectorate acknowledged both strengths and weaknesses in the provision introduced by the government.
The three core limits implemented by Swedish authorities from July 2020 to November 2021 were a weekly deposit/loss restriction of SEK 5,000 (€471) and a limitation on bonus offers to SEK 100 (€10) for commercial online gambling, and a mandatory login time limit for online games.
In its assessment of these measures, the Inspectorate noted that due to other key developments in the Swedish gambling market prior to and during the pandemic – re-regulation occurred in 2019 and a new licencing process was introduced – it was difficult to fully comprehend to what the extent the temporary restrictions had affected the market.
Spelinspektionen did however state that for many players the SEK 5,000 limit was too high, and that in some cases this meant those gambling “in an unhealthy” way but who were not spending this much were missed out.
Although also acknowledging that the weekly SEK 5,000 limit was the measure operators had the most difficulty adapting to, studies into the matter found that the measures were broadly supported by Swedish players.
Notably, the “Games about money and health in the wake of COVID-19” survey of 4,178 people found that 60% respondents supported the temporary measures, whilst a separate Svenska Spel study revealed that 52% of the state operator’s customers were in favour of the provisions.
Looking ahead, in the Inspectorate’s view, “the measure in such cases will have the intended effect if the licensees apply their duty of care”, and that if the need for such limits should arise again in the future stricture requirements “may be preferable”.
The authority’s rationale for this was that bonus offers can influence problem gamblers to play for longer than intended, whilst adding that the addition of live betting into the Swedish market has “clearly increased the pace of the game”, requiring any stricter provisions on the sector also be imposed on wagering as well as casino games.
However, although maintaining support for the future adoption of strict regulations on Sweden’s online betting and gaming sector in the event of crises such as the coronavirus pandemic, the Inspectorate also noted that problem gamlbing rates in the country remained stable throughout lockdown conditions.
A study by Stockholm University found that there “was no increase in either online gambling or problem gambling” during the initial phase of the pandemic. On the other hand, a study by Lund University researchers revealed that respondents who had a history of problem gambling believed the temporary measures had reduced their betting.
Future developments in the Swedish market could see a more permanent reshaping of the regulatory and licensing landscape as Minister for Social Security Ardalan Shekarabi’s safer gambling and consumer protection proposals received government backing earlier this year.