Sweden Launch Larsson Inquiry To Combat Int’l Online Gambling Ops

The Swedish Ministry of Finance has announced that the Swedish Chamber of Commerce’s Director General, Gunnar Larsson, will launch an investigation to safeguard Sweden’s controlled online gaming marketplace against black-market threats.

Swedish Social Affairs Minister Ardalan Shekarabi, the lead supporter of recent ‘temporary player restrictions and controls’ that split Sweden’s online gaming marketplace in 2020, officially announced the appointment of Larsson.

The Ministry of Finance announced that an inquiry would be undertaken by Larsson to identify barriers to successful compliance against offshore operators and recommend solutions to strengthen controls.

The investigation was launched after the Swedish gambling inspectorate Spelinspektionen raised concerns that it lacked the regulatory authority to place payment blocks on black market operators targeting Swedish customers, a mandate to be reviewed by the Larsson investigation.

The investigation will also determine whether a systematic strategy and collaborative process to eradicate black market risks can be maintained by Sweden’s government and regulatory agencies.

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

“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.”

As Swedish MPs study a consultation initiated by Shekarabi that could extend player controls until June 2021, Larsson’s investigation is launched, with the government continuing to place a SEK5,000 weekly deposit limit on online casino play.

The current state of play sees operators and regulators split as to how the government can proceed with more industry regulation, two years after Sweden re-regulated its online gaming sector at the start of 2019.

Licensed operators, represented by the Swedish igaming trade association Branschföreningen för Onlinespel (BOS), argued that a set of heavy-handed market constraints simply led to black market growth.

Meanwhile, Sweden’s largest operators have suggested that main market protections have been made useless, such as Spelpaus, the country’s gambling self-exclusion system, as Sweden has no defence against unlicensed operators.

BOS Secretary-General Gustaf Hoffstedt welcomed the investigation, but highlighted the urgency of the matter: “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 percent.

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