Sweden: deposit limits may not apply to sports betting and horse racing

Sweden sports betting exemption

Sports betting and horse racing in Sweden could both be exempt from the government’s proposed temporary deposit limits. 

Social Security Minister Ardalan Shekarabi has put forward these amendments to April’s proposed legislation changes, which have been delayed until July. 

If these proposals are implemented in their current state, online casino games will still be subjected to various restrictions. 

Shekarabi’s initial proposals had been met with criticism from a number of gaming industry stakeholders within the Northern European nation. 

Tweaks to the initial amendment 

The temporary regulations, designed to reduce the possible risk of problem gambling during COVID-19, were supposed to be introduced on 1st June. However, this date has now been pushed back until 2nd July. 

A document has been released, which aims to shed light on the reasons behind proposed changes. It was noted that not all verticals carry the exact same level of risk when it comes to developing dangerous habits. Swedish horse racing operator AB Trav och Galopp (ATG) had mentioned this during the consultation period. 

In effect, the amended legislation will only apply to online casinos if it becomes law. The restrictions, which include bonus limits in addition to those related to deposits, will last until at least the end of this year. 

Questions raised by trading bodies 

Sweden’s online gambling trade association, Branschföreningen för Onlinespel (BOS), is far-from-keen on the new proposals. It was noted that the government has an invested interest in operators such as ATG, where most board members are government-appointed. With this in mind, BOS believes that the laws favour such brands.

BOS General Secretary Gustaf Hoffstedt said the following. 

“The new suggestion is impossible to understand from a consumer protection perspective. 

“Since the first governmental suggestions were presented, we have received data from the Swedish Gambling Authority and the Swedish Tax Authority showing that online casino has not increased during COVID-19, whereas horse betting has exploded. 

“Against all rationality, the government now wants to exclude horse betting from further regulation whereas online casino shall receive further restrictions.”

Hoffstedt also accused the government of not caring about the country’s declining channelisation rate. Moreover, he feels that the implementation of these laws would be “a huge loss for consumer protection in Sweden”. 

Players switching to horse racing for the time being

Citing statistics from Sweden’s Tax Agency (Skatteverket), BOS pointed out that horse racing’s month-on-month revenue had increased by 37% between March and April 2020. This was based on the returns of the market’s five largest operators in this vertical. 

In April, horse racing revenue amounted to its highest total since the Swedish online gambling market ceased operating as a monopoly in January 2019. 

Elsewhere, the Swedish Allsvenskan – aiming to commence next month – has also had a recent spat with the government. The country’s top footballing division has accused them of stopping them from playing football. The Allsvenskan was supposed to begin last month.