Sweden Expands Covid-19 Online Casino Restrictions

The Swedish government has approved proposals to extend the temporary measures to combat Covid-19 in the country's online casino market until November 14.

The restrictions, which include a weekly SEK 5,000 (£80) player deposit limit and a maximum SEK 100 bonus limit, expired at the end of June but have now been extended due to the ongoing Covid-19 crisis.

A month-long consultation on extending those restrictions ended on May 3 after industry protests went unheeded.

“We see that the spread of Covid-19 in Sweden is still high,” said Swedish Minister of Social Affairs Ardalan Shekarabi.

“The current situation is fraught with great risks for consumers of the gaming market. Therefore, we need to act to reduce the risks for the most vulnerable consumers,” Shekarabi added.

The Swedish government first approved measures to restrict the online casino sector in June 2020 as part of its response to the pandemic in order to protect blocked consumers from gambling-related harm.

However, these measures have caused significant damage to the country's licensed operators, and many firms are reporting lower revenues since their introduction.

In its response to the consultation, the Swedish Gaming Authority (SGA) stated its opposition to the deposit limit legislation, calling for further investigation into the validity and effectiveness of this measure to reduce problem gambling.

In addition, the Swedish trade association BOS said the restrictions actually jeopardize consumer protection in Sweden by expanding the country's black market opportunities and reducing the allocation of licensed firms to channels.

“The Ministry of Finance maintains that the restrictions do not pose a threat to the Swedish licensed market in its daily fight against unlicensed gambling,” BOS CEO Gustav Hoffstedt wrote in a trade organization response to a consultation.

“As confirmation, the ministry cites statistics that show that 85% of all gambling takes place in gambling companies licensed in Sweden.

“The problem is that channeling is much worse for online casinos where the channeling is only 75%.

“Thus, one in four online casino gaming crowns leak out of the system and into the gambling black market, where consumer protection is often lacking.

“Only the gambling black market has reason to rejoice at the government’s proposal to continue restrictions on gambling companies licensed in Sweden,” Hoffstedt added.