Sweden considers shutting down online casino, stakeholders concerned about consequences

Sweden is considering a temporary shutdown of its regulated online casinos, according to reports. 

The decision would aim to reduce the risk of gambling-related harm during the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Spelinspektionen has confirmed that it is pondering whether or not these measures need to come into place, while industry stakeholders have spoken against it. 

Could “extraordinary measures” be on their way? 

Earlier this week, Sweden’s Minister for Social Security Ardalan Shekerabi said that “extraordinary measures” may be implemented. This was if casinos refused to take measures that are deemed necessary to protect players during the current situation. 

Part of Shekerabi’s role responsibilities are related to gambling policy. 

Sweden has taken a less draconian approach to limiting the spread of coronavirus than a lot of other European countries. While social distancing and working from home have both been encouraged, a full lockdown is not in place. 

Industry members concerned about the potential introduction of these measures 

BonusFinder Managing Director Fintan Costello has expressed his worries about the government’s possible new measures. 

Pointing out that the black market still exists, he believes that a more pragmatic approach should be taken. 

“The Swedish government will make a colossal mistake if it chooses to temporarily close down online casino sites in an attempt to protect players. 

“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.”  

He continued with the following. 

“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.”

Meanwhile, Gustaf Hoffstedt – General Secretary for Branschföreningen för Onlinespel (BOS) – also thinks that extra gambling measures right now would bolster unregulated brands. 

Claiming that the regulated market is currently around 75% – well below Spelinspektionen’s target of 90% – he said the following. 

“Sweden is struggling with low channelisation rates when it comes to online casino, regardless of any possible additional restrictions for Swedish licensed operators. 

“To worsen the conditions for the Swedish licensed operators would not be a particularly smart move.”

Giving the black market an upper hand?

BonusFinder released a report at the end of March, in which they found concerning trends in Swedish online gambling. 

According to publicly-available data, many players have explicitly sought to gamble with unregulated operators. 

While Spelinspektionen has said in the past that unregulated operators make up 9% of the Scandinavian country’s iGaming market, H2 Gambling Capital estimated that was 85 – 87%. BonusFinder, however, thinks that it’s nearer to 70%.