Spelinspektionen calls effects of restrictions ‘difficult to comprehend’

Spelinspektionen has stated that, due to its re-regulation, along with the impact of the pandemic, it was “difficult to fully comprehend” how the market was affected by temporary restrictions. 

The three core measures implemented by Swedish authorities from July 2020 to November 2021 was a weekly deposit/loss limit of SEK 5,000 (€471), limitation on bonus offers to SEK 100 (€10) for commercial online gambling, and a mandatory login time limit for online games.

Publishing its interim report into the impacts of temporary limitations on online betting and gaming during COVID, the Swedish regulator highlighted that the introduction of loss limits and restrictions on bonus offers across all betting verticals would be the preferred option, citing the potential for any “future crisis”. 

The report read: “The Swedish Gaming Inspectorate assesses, however, that the measure in such cases will have the intended effect if the licensees apply their duty of care. The prerequisite for effective work to protect players from excessive gambling is that the licensee regularly monitors players’ gambling behaviour and makes individual risk assessments. 

“If in the future there is a need for similar gambling liability measures, stricter measures within the duty of care may be preferable, as this takes into account the gambling behaviour and not special amount limits.”

The interim report maps and analyses developments in the gaming market, public health and consumer protection. The assignment includes drawing lessons for future needs for similar measures.

Acknowledging both strengths and weaknesses on the provisions introduced by the government, Spelinspektionen highlighted that, for many players, the SEK 5,000 limit was too high, and, in some cases, this meant those gambling “in an unhealthy” way but who were not spending this much were missed out. 

Although it noted that the weekly limit was the measure operators had the most difficulty adapting to, studies into the matter found that it was 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 per cent of respondents supported the temporary measures, whilst a separate Svenska Spel study revealed that 52 per cent of the state operator’s customers were in favour of the provisions.

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 authority also stated that problem gambling 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.