Sweden launches ‘Larsson Inquiry’ on black market matters

Sweden’s Ministry of Finance has confirmed that Gunnar Larsson, Director General of the Swedish Chamber of Commerce, will lead an inquiry to safeguard Sweden’s regulated online gambling marketplace against black-market threats.   

The appointment of Larsson was officially announced by Swedish Social Affairs Minister Ardalan Shekarabi, the lead advocate of recent ‘temporary player restrictions and controls’ that have ruptured Sweden’s online gambling marketplace during 2020. 

The Ministry of Finance confirmed that Larsson will lead an inquiry to ‘identify obstacles impeding effective enforcement against offshore operators, and to propose solutions to improve controls’.

The inquiry was launched after Swedish gambling inspectorate Spelinspektionen raised concerns that it lacked the regulatory capacity to impose payment blocks on black market actors which target Swedish consumers – a mandate that will be reviewed by Larsson’s inquiry.

The inquiry will also judge whether Sweden’s government and regulatory agencies can maintain a comprehensive approach and collaborative framework to eliminate black market threats.  

“We are very positive that the government has appointed an investigation to strengthen the work towards two important areas, unlicensed play and match-fixing,” said Camilla Rosenberg, director-general of Spelinspektionen.

“The tools the authority has today to counter illegal gambling are not sufficient, which we previously reported to the government in the reports ‘Developments in the gambling market and measures taken due to the new coronavirus.”

Larsson’s inquiry is launched as Swedish MPs review a consultation proposed by Shekarabi which could extend player controls until June 2021, with the government continuing to impose a SEK5,000 weekly deposit cap on online casino play.

Approaching two-years since Sweden re-regulated its online gambling marketplace at the start of 2019, the current state of play sees operators and regulators divided as to how the government should proceed with further market legislations.    

Represented by Swedish igaming trade association Branschföreningen för Onlinespel (BOS), licensed operators have argued that a series of heavy-handed market restrictions have simply led to the growth of the black market.

Meanwhile, Sweden’s biggest operators have stated that key market safeguards such as Spelpaus, the country’s gambling self-exclusion scheme, have been rendered useless as Sweden holds no protections against unlicensed operators

BOS secretary-general Gustaf Hoffstedt welcomed the inquiry, but stated that matters needed urgency: “The first two years of re-regulated gambling market in Sweden have been marked by repressive measures from authorities and the government towards Swedish licensed operators, whereas unlicensed operators have been left untouched,” he said.

“A growing proportion of the Swedish punters have been abandoning the Swedish licensing market, with online casino as the most extreme example with a leakage out of the system of at least 25%.

“Considering the Government’s goal is that at least 90% of Sweden’s gambling shall stay within the licensing system by January 1 2022, that goal appears very distant.” 

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