Sweden Gambling Bill Update Removes Restrictive Marketing Regulations

Posted on: May 19, 2022, 05:07h. 

Last updated on: May 19, 2022, 10:34h.

Sweden’s government has introduced a series of changes to the country’s gambling laws. It listened to the gaming industry before finalizing the changes, backing off plans to severely handicap operators’ marketing initiatives.

Minister of Social Securities Ardalan Shekarabi
Sweden’s Minister of Social Securities, Ardalan Shekarabi. He has finished his work drafting new gambling laws, which the government published this week. (Image: Nord News)

Like most countries, Sweden is revamping its gambling regulations to focus more on consumer protection. However, unlike most countries, government officials and regulators are willing to listen to the industry.

This past January, the country decided against introducing stricter online gambling limits. Now, with the final updated gambling laws coming online, it’s not going to make it impossible for operators to advertise, either.

Sweden Adopts a Common-Sense Approach

The legislation, which the government published two days ago, contains a number of updates, including prohibitions on illegal gambling promotion and unlicensed gambling advertising. To the satisfaction of the industry, the legislation does not ban televised advertising of legal gambling or gaming products.

Other marketing requirements include increased moderation when advertising to consumers. There is also a ban against “certain direct mail” marketing options. Going forward, Spelinspektionen, the country’s gaming regulator, will be able to issue a disruption fee to companies that break the law.

Bonus offers for companies that provide games only for the public benefit of their customers will get special treatment. In this category are lottery operators, who will soon receive an updated list of requirements and restrictions.

Minister of Social Securities Ardalan Shekarabi, who drafted the legislation, previously stated that the government would target aggressive gambling advertising for the “most dangerous games.” He also envisaged changes in operator transparency. This made it into the final bill, which requires operators to disclose more information so authorities can monitor industry activity.

A new provision, and one that is becoming more common, focuses on gaming software. Companies will now have to secure a permit for the software they use. The fee could be as much as SEK120,000 (US$12,036).

There is a caveat that operators need to be aware of. The updated laws leave the window open for the possible implementation of a “consequential amendment” to the Tax Procedure Act. In addition, an agreement between Sweden and Finland on slot machines on passenger ships in regularly-scheduled traffic between the countries may cease to exist.

Gaming Industry Welcomes the Changes

The Swedish Trade Association for Online Gambling (BOS, for its Swedish acronym) supports the bill. It stated in response to the publication of the new laws that omitting the ban on television marketing was a smart move.

Advertising has been the focus of gambling reform advocates in Sweden and other countries over the past few years. Italy has had a ban in place for years that most would say is unsuccessful. The UK is considering a similar move, which will likely have the same result.

“It is entirely in line with what the government announced it would include and we are cautiously positive of this bill. The most striking thing is actually what is not included in the proposal, such as a ban on advertising for gambling on TV, radio and streaming media between [6 AM and 9 PM],” said BOS Secretary General Gustaf Hoffstedt in a statement.

BOS had reservations about the “increased moderation” section. As a result, it stated that it is taking a cautiously optimistic approach to the changes. Hoffstedt explained, “It seems to be a paraphrase of risk classification, and the very ambiguity of what it actually means opens for legal uncertainty.”

That was a veiled hint that the government needs to produce regulations that are clearer and more well-defined. Short of that, Sweden is opening itself up to the possibility of facing legal challenges.

The new gambling laws will take effect as of July 1, 2023.