Kindred Group has published its opinion submitted to the Swedish government on the proposal of new player protection measures, which it seeks to implement during the COVID-19 crisis.
On 23 April, Sweden’s Health Minister Ardalan Shekarabi presented an emergency proposal to Riksdag, outlining a series of ‘temporary restrictions’ on online gambling operators as further COVID-19 public policy protection measures.
Criticism of Shekarabi’s actions have been well documented, with Swedish CEOs writing to the government urging MPs to dismiss the Health Minister’s orders.
Publishing a detailed response to draft proposals, Kindred has stood by the industry’s main concern that Sweden’s ‘licensed market will be significantly reduced as a result of the government’s continued tightening of gaming regulations, which will lead to an expansion of the illegal gambling market’.
Kindred stated that draft restrictions have been submitted based on an ‘alarmist hypothesis’, without proof of evidence that problem gambling has, or will, increase during the pandemic period.
While the Health Ministry presented no evidence, Swedish licensees pointed to independent research undertaken by Copenhagen Economics, which explained that restrictions could lead to a 30-40% increase in players gambling via unlicensed operators.
Kindred stated that should the government proceed with further restrictions, it will simply undermine Spelinspektionen’s channelisation frameworks, outlined as the core mandate of Sweden’s 2018 Gambling Act.
As a market licensee, Kindred questioned why the government notified the EU Commission of its draft proposals, choosing to treat online gambling radically different to other business sectors.
Should the government seek to further protect consumers and the improve industry standards, Kindred advised its stakeholders to pursue its previously recommended action plan which includes:
- Enforcing B2B-licenses for suppliers and customer acquisition companies
- Undertaking further regulation of the instant loan industry
- Carrying out powerful public awareness campaigns
- Clarifying the Gambling Authority’s mission by requesting player data from gambling companies to facilitate fact-based assessments
Henrik Tjärnström, CEO Kindred Group, said: “We are extremely concerned that the Swedish gambling market continues to shrink, a trend confirmed by both the Swedish Agency for Public Management (Statskontoret) and research firm Copenhagen Economics. What the government is now proposing will result in a continued decline in the gambling market and an erosion of consumer protections.
“We need to be careful about introducing regulations that move customers away from regulated gambling companies towards unlicensed sites where Swedish authorities have no ability whatsoever of ensuring high consumer protection. This is a negative development for customers, for the licensed gambling companies, and for society as a whole.”