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Sweden Backs off Plan to Hunt Down Unlicensed Online Gaming Operators

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Posted on: June 15, 2022, 05:27h. 

Last updated on: June 15, 2022, 11:25h.

Countries like the UK and the Netherlands apparently believe that strangling their gambling markets with regulations is the ideal solution to making them run better. Sweden is taking a different approach, and isn’t going to focus a lot of attention on unregulated operators.

Swedish Parliament
The Swedish Parliament building in Stockholm. The country is presenting an update to its gambling laws that includes a relaxed position on offshore operators. (Image: Shutterstock)

The Swedish government won’t approve a plan that would have given regulators the authority to block all forms of unlicensed gambling, even if they serve Swedish gamblers. Instead, it included the change in a new law regarding match-fixing it sent to the Lagrådet, or Law Council. The legislative body reviews draft bills the government submits to Sweden’s Parliament.

The current system gives Spelinspektionen authority over all gambling that targets the Swedish market, such as local payment options or marketing. It may also take legal action against unlicensed operators that target Swedish players. In addition, unlicensed operators who accept customers from Sweden, even unintentionally, face regulatory action.

Offshore Operators Safe in Sweden

A 2021 report by Gunnar Larsson, Sweden’s Ministry of Finance and Chamber of Commerce Director General, helped formulate the law. That report covered match-fixing and unlicensed gaming.

In analyzing the proposal and requesting input, Sweden determined that most feedback either supported the initiative or was indifferent. For its part, Spelinspektionen, Sweden’s gaming regulator, noted that a change would make it easier to define targeted operations by offshore operators.

However, the state treasury welcomes the change. It explained that it would force businesses with no contact with Sweden to take steps to avoid taking Swedish customers. This, it asserted, was an undue burden on those businesses.

Additionally, an administrative court maintained that it wasn’t clear whether the Swedish government was able to make such changes. According to the Public Prosecutor’s Office, it would be difficult to investigate and prosecute these rules.

As a result, the government decided not to implement the change, giving offshore operators more leeway. The government stated that it was not implementing the change because there was a concern that the focus would shift. It believed the change would target whether players were permanent residents or just residents of Sweden, rather than whether the operator adapted its games for the Swedish market.

The government gave itself room to revisit the update. It stated that there is justification for the Gaming Act to evolve under its current scope, while allowing for an extension of that scope in the future.

Paywall Provides a Workaround

Although it didn’t approve the Gambling Act expansion plan, the government did accept a proposal to simplify payment blocking. This could provide a means to make it more difficult for offshore operators to attract Swedish players.

Both the State Treasury and Spelinspektionen welcomed the change. They acknowledged that blocking payment methods under the previous framework was difficult and didn’t meet the expectations of the legislation that put the block in place.

In addition, regarding match-fixing, the government suggested that licensees be allowed to use personal data to determine if a player has been involved in match-fixing. Sporting bodies should be allowed to use the data in the same way as well.

Previously, no entity or organization had clear responsibility for the collection, analysis, and distribution of information regarding suspected match-fixing in the country. Furthermore, certain data protection rules hampered the sharing of information. As a result, this also hindered efforts to combat match-fixing.

The government hopes its updated rules will fix these issues. It has already sent the changes to the European Commission for its review. If approved, the new laws will take effect on July 1 of next year.

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