A new report in Sweden has called for limits on online gambling in the country, at a time when the industry has already been hit by a number of regulatory challenges.
The report, from the country’s Equality Commission recommends that online gambling in the country should only be offered at certain hours. According to the Commission, which works within the Ministry of Finance, the report was aimed at boosting economic equality and social mobility.
It also suggested the creation of a national portal to oversee deposit limits across the entire regulated market, and a new warning system for gambling advertising.
Figures suggest that around 2% of the Swedish population can be classed as having a gambling addiction, with 0.4% of that number having a severe addiction. The Commission also notes that a small number of players make up around 50% of gambling turnover, while they found that women were more likely to display addiction symptoms than men.
The Commission acknowledged that there was no obvious simple connection between problem gambling and income levels, but said that lower earners were more vulnerable, despite gambling less often than higher earners, due to their low levels of disposable income. And the report cited online gambling, particularly online casino gambling, as the area most likely to lead to problems.
At the same time, the report said that over-strict regulation should be avoided as this could lead to other problems:
“In the same way as with alcohol policy, the policy needs to focus on preventing abuse through balanced efforts rather than limiting all gambling. Excessive restrictions or high taxes can lead to an increased share of unregulated gambling.”
Instead, the Commission is recommending that the gambling sector should operate within restricted opening hours. No suggestion on what these hours should be has been given, though the report notes that a large proportion of gambling activity takes play on Fridays and Saturdays.
The report also suggests that stake limits can be an important tool in tackling problem gambling addiction, but that a national monitoring platform across the entire regulated market, through which player activity at all gambling sites could be tracked, would offer a more effective option than the current situation. The portal would give players the power to set deposit limits every 24 hours.
The Commission also indicated that there were reasons to consider the introduction of an annual deposit limit such as that applied in Norway, although this was not included in the official list of recommendations. These included a suggestion that warning messages like those used with tobacco products, could be added to all gambling marketing messages.
Sweden’s gambling regime has been notable for its tight regulation since the re-launched market opened in January 2019. More recently, the country introduced a mandatory weekly deposit limit for online casino games during the coronavirus pandemic. The limit has proven to be controversial in the industry, with one trade association claiming that it had led to chaos.