Swedish leaders warn Minister Shekarabi of channelisation consequences  

CEOs of Sweden’s leading igaming operators have warned health minister Ardalan Shekarabi not to ‘torpedo his own gambling regulations’, emphasising that further restrictions on the sector will result in an increase of punters betting via unlicensed operators.

As health minister overseeing Sweden’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, Shekarabi has ordered Swedish parliament to adopt a series of temporary online gambling restrictions, protecting national citizens.

In an open letter, the CEOs warned the Minister about the increasingly low channelisation on the Swedish gambling market.

The letter said: “On January 1, 2019, new gambling regulations were introduced in Sweden. Minister for Public Administration Ardalan Shekarabi spearheaded the reform, with cooperation from the opposition, resulting in broad support in the Swedish Parliament.

“The overall mantra was that the state should regain control of the gambling market after decades of gambling moving to companies that operated in Sweden without a license. Parliament’s preferred method of effective gambling market control is what is known as channelling.

“As expected, this resulted in a crossroads where companies, with the aim of maintaining a long-term business model, welcomed more insight into operations and greater control over players’ behaviour in exchange for a well-functioning and sustainable gaming market.”

The letter has since been signed by 12 CEOs, including: Pontus Lindwall, CEO of Betsson AB; Henrik Tjärnström, CEO, Kindred Group; Gustaf Hagman, Group CEO, LeoVegas; Therese Hillman, CEO, NetEnt AB; Ulrik Bengtsson, Group CEO, William Hill; Lahcene Merzoug, CEO, ComeOn Group; Henric Andersson,CEO, Suprnation; Tomas Bäckman,CEO, Hero Gaming; Alexander Stevendahl,CEO, Videoslots Ltd; Daniel Lindberg,CEO, Quickspin; Shelly Suter-Hadad, CEO, Casumo and Anthony Werkman, CEO, Betway.

CEOs urged Shekarabi to ‘change strategy and protect the Swedish licensing system’, emphasising that a high rate of channelisation into the licensing system is necessary for effective player protection.

Furthermore, the licensed operators highlighted their tax contributions to the Swedish economy, reinforcing the idea that a fall in betting levels via licensed operators will result in a fall in taxes.

The letter continued: “We must remember that it is the customers who choose where the best product is. In a digital world, that power does not lie with the state, or with us as corporations for that matter.

“We operate in a digital world and have direct access to all the relevant data needed to evaluate what measures can help strengthen our players’ safety and security while still providing attractive offers and products. The sad thing is that the government, with Ardalan Shekarabi at the forefront, does not want to talk to us about how we can work together and, with help from the insights we possess, develop a well-functioning Swedish gambling market.

“This became especially clear when the Minister, on April 23, proposed new emergency restrictions, proclaiming that, “The Government sees major risks in the gambling sector right now.” But the overall gambling industry (private and state) doesn’t see the same pattern at all. Instead, we see how gambling has diminished compared to what it looked like before the covid-19 crisis struck.

“Every company, regardless of industry, wants to be where the customers are. If the customers leave, the companies will follow suit. The Swedish gambling market not only provides safety and security to players but also contributes billions annually in much-needed tax revenue and investment in sports. By slowly eroding the Swedish gaming market month by month, the government risks bringing about major cuts in security, tax revenue, and societal investment.

“We can only be left to wonder why Ardalan Shekarabi wants to torpedo his own gambling regulations.”

Commenting on the letter, Secretary-General for Swedish trade association Branschföreningen för Onlinespel (BOS) Gustaf Hoffstedt, said: “My estimation is that the twelve gambling CEOs represent approximately half of the Swedish online gambling market.

“It is crucial for the success of the licensing system and the safeguarding of customer protection that Mr Shekarabi withdraws his additional measures towards the locally licensed operators.

“The licensing system is fragile and can’t endure further attacks from the Minister. He must do the opposite and safeguard the licensing system in the name of consumer protection.

“From our perspective as a trade body for the industry we now open up and invite all CEOs for gambling companies to sign the petition, being a member of us or not. Our only demand is that the company stands by the petition and if it is a B2C company that it holds a Swedish gambling license.”

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