Ardalan Shekarabi, Sweden’s Minister of Social Security, has told national media that the government is ready to publish ‘stage two’ of its regulatory approach on gambling, focusing on enforcing tougher advertising and marketing restrictions upon licensed incumbents.
Recognised as one of the highest-profile MPs within the governing Socialdemokraterna (social democrats) party, Shekarabi is the former Minister of Civil Affairs, who played a key role in drafting the re-regulation of Swedish online gambling laws during 2018.
Despite moving his departmental position, the government has maintained Shekarabi as a key advisor in the regulatory development of Sweden’s gambling marketplace.
Following the first quarter of trading under the new laws established by Sweden’s revamped ‘Gambling Act’ regulating online gambling services, Shekarabi would publicly criticise incumbents for undertaking ‘excessive and aggressive marketing practices’ targeting audiences across multiple media verticals.
Shekarabi would sanction Swedish gambling inspectorate Spelinspektionen to carry out a review of industry advertising, assessing whether further systems and controls were needed to limit marketing output.
Speaking to national media, Shekarabi confirmed that he was ready to publish stage two of Sweden’s regulatory framework in which the government will ‘tighten legislation’ with regards to advertising verticals and online casino.
“I am happy with the whole thing, but there is still an area where we will have to spend a lot of our energy in the coming months, and that is advertising,” he said.
“Here we have to regain control, as we need to tighten up the law to remove the aggressive game advertising, especially with regards to dangerous elements that are attached to online casinos.”
Reviewing year-1 of Sweden’s re-regulation of online gambling services, Shekarabi maintained that despite legal challenges by incumbents, the government framework should be regarded as a ‘success story’.
Of note, Shekarabi highlighted that the government and Spelinspektionen had been successful in carrying out its ‘channelization strategy’, in which consumers have engaged with authorised actors.
Gustav Hoffstedt, Secretary-General of Swedish online gambling trade body BOS, would reject Shekarabi comments stating that the minister was ignorant of the black market reality facing consumers and incumbents.
“Only the Minister believes this,” he countered. “Everyone else has received the alarming message from his own expert authority at Spelinspektionen is below the government’s target of 90 per cent, and that the sewerage will continue to decline. The licensing system is leaking players.”
For 2020, Hoffstedt underlines that the Swedish government should rethink its channelisation requirements, removing legislation which only strengthens black market actors targeting Swedish consumers – ‘not because the licensed companies would break any laws, but because the gaming consumers in an accelerating development leave the licensing system’.
Meanwhile, Jenny Nilzon, Chief Executive of Swedish Gambling Association SPER, has warned the government that year-2 of its regulatory agenda should focus on working with licensed incumbents who have committed to reducing their advertising volume.
“The industry is working together to curb advertising and we see a big difference today compared to a year ago, both in volume and content,” she added. “If the law is to be tightened further, it is important to put it against the Channelisation, that is, the customers do not apply to unlicensed gaming companies. Unfortunately, we see this trend increasing, which is a more serious problem than industry advertising.”