sweden gambling regulator fines operators

Sweden Gambling Authorities Issue Fines for Bonus Offers

Swedish gambling regulator Spelinspektionen has flexed its muscles again – this time over bonus offers made by two licensed operators. Both Mandalorian Technologies and Betway were reprimanded for violating Swedish gambling regulations by offering individual customers more than a single bonus. They were also slapped with penalties of millions of kroners.

What the Swedish Gambling Law Says

According to new gambling regulations that came into effect in Sweden at the beginning of the year, licensed operators are only allowed to offer a single deposit bonus to players when they first sign up to play on the gambling platform.

A statement from Spelinspektionen explained the rationale behind this rule in a statement:

“The main purpose of the new gambling regulation, which came into force on January 1st, 2019, is to strengthen consumer protection and reduce the negative effects of gambling.

“The limitation on bonuses is contained in the law to reduce social and economic damages and problem gambling. The Spelinspektionen will therefore continue to focus on supervision of this area.”

Multiple Bonuses Not Allowed

After investigating a number of licensed Swedish gambling sites, Spelinspektionen found Betway and Mandalorian in breach of gaming regulations. The authority found both had sites offered bonuses to customers on several occasions after initial welcome bonuses had already been given to those players.

Mandalorian and Betway were fined SEK 9 million and SEK 5 million respectively. Both were also given an official warning.

Mandalorian Technologies was founded in 2016 and has a lenghty background in the Swedish tech industry. Mandalorian claims it was the first casino to offer a no account experience in which new customers can play for real money without signing up for an account. The group offers its igaming services in Sweden through two main domains: NoAccountCasino.com and PrankCasino.com.

Betway is a more established provider of entertainment across sports betting, online casino, bingo, esports and poker. The group operates in the Swedish gambling sphere at Betway.se.

Fair Warning Was Given in February

Near the end of February this year, Spelinspektionen decided to clarify its stance on bonuses by sending out a letter to licensees.  In the letter, the regulator pointed out that although regulations specifically state that only one bonus can be offered to a player during the sign up process, some operators were making different kinds of bonuses available.

The gambling authority said that not only were licensees in breach of the regulations, but also complaints and comments were being made by the public.

The letter said at the time that it had initiated sanctions against several unnamed operators.

Spelinspektionen stressed that any financial incentive is considered a bonus under Swedish gambling laws, including cashback promotions and discount offers.

In response to licensees’ complaints that the law is not clear on the matter of bonuses, the operations chief of the authority, Patrik Gustavsson said this:

“There is a definition in the law that states that all discounts or similar financial incentives linked to games are to be seen as a bonus.

“It is also clear that a licensee can only offer bonuses the first time a player plays at the licensee’s site.”

Self-Exclusion Demands

The new Swedish gambling law came into effect on 1 January 2019 and the ink was barely even dry on the document before Spelinspektionen began warning operators they need to improve how they manage customers who have chosen to self-exclude themselves from gambling.

In a letter dated 15 January, the regulator reminded licensees to check all new customers against the Spelpaus.se register before taking their wagers. If a customer’s name appears on the register, operators are obligated to block that customer immediately.

Sweden opened the national register at the same time the new gambling laws were approved. By January 2019, over 10,000 people had chosen to self exclude.  By March, the number of self exclusion requests had tripled. Gamblers who choose to self exclude are given the option to be denied gambling services for lengths of time ranging from a month to forever. The authority does not allow the self-excluded to alter their status once they have signed up.

In its January letter, Spelinspektionen noted that several licensees had not yet adjusted their systems to comply with the new law. Operators were given a serious warning: fail to comply and lose your Swedish gambling license.

From the letter:

“If the gaming companies fail to check and stop players who have self-excluded, it can be considered a serious violation of the regulations, which could mean that the gaming company will lose its license.”

Two operators, Genesis Global and AG Communications, were named and shamed in the letter for having breached the new regulations and allowing self-excluded players to access their websites.

Genesis immediately adjusted its system, refunded all affected players and closed their accounts.

AG Communications tried several times to block self-excluded players but blamed echnical issues for its system failing to be thoroughly watertight. In April, 2019, the gambling regulator fined AG SEK 3 million for failing to adhere to the rules.

AG Communications runs a number of popular brands, including Karamba.com, Goliathcasino.com and Vikingslots.com.

Cracking Down on Excessive Advertising

Besides addressing issues of self-exclusion and bonuses, the Swedish authority recently outlined plans to crack down on excessive gambling-related advertising.

Late last month, the government said it would consider whether to ban advertising by online casinos and other gambling institutions in a bid to tackle the recent surge of addiction.

Swedish Minister for Public Administration Ardalan Shekarabi said that although gambling rules have been tightened since the beginning of the year, measures have not gone far enough.

As such, the Gaming Market Commission (Spelmarknadustredningen), a body set up last year to assess the impact of regulations on the racing and sports industries in Sweden, will make its own recommendations regarding how to deal with the problem.

“There is scope for the commissioner to recommend a total or partial band on gambling advertising,” said Shekarabi.

Former government-owned monopoly operate Svenska Spell has already stopped advertising its online casino brands for the year.