As we’ve written already on several occasions, the COVID-19 outbreak will undoubtedly affect the gambling industry in a significant way. Thus far, land-based operators were the ones suffering the most as they were forced to shut down.
For online casinos, it was mostly business as usual and many of them have even seen an increase in number of players. Without brick and mortar venues to turn to, fans of slots and other games are turning fully to online alternatives.
However, it seems that online operators are now coming in the focus as well, at least in Sweden. Namely, the country is considering a possibility of introducing new restrictions and even a possible a ban on online gambling in the light of recent developments.
Concerns Over Players’ Wellbeing
According to the reports from Spelinspektionen, country’s main regulatory body, they are looking into various options to enact further restrictions on online casino play. Sweden has already changed its internet gambling laws in 2019, severely restricting operators, especially in terms of promotions and bonuses they’re allowed to offer to the players.
However, the possibility of new and even stricter measures comes as a result of shapr increase in the number of Swedes playing online. With people spending much more time inside their homes, it seems many are looking to pass their time playing slots and table games on the internet.
According to one report, the number of players registering and logging in has increased by 33% at 17 of the total 60 gambling operators licensed in the country.
IN light of this, Ardalan Shekarabi, Sweden’s Social Security Minister, has issued a warning that the Government might take extraordinary measures to stop this trend. He urged the operators to put in place better player protection measures on their own, which could help avoid such actions.
The Other Side of the Coin
Although these restrictive measures may look good on paper, there are those who believe they’d create the opposite effect. Sweden can only prevent players from playing at locally licensed casinos but there are still many international operators who happily accept Swedes.
In fact, many players already choose offshore sites over licensed operators because of the better perks these offshore casinos are able to provide.
If licensed casinos were forced to shut down completely, the number of players turning to these unregulated options would definitely increase quite significantly. Thus, such a measure would only hurt the regulated market, resulting in a significant financial loss.
Instead of protecting players, the Government would thus push them further towards unregulated sites, effectively making their activities riskier. Some believe that this would create a black market boom that wouldn’t benefit anyone.
Necessary Protective Measures Already Exist
Those fighting against the complete shutdown of the licensed market are of the opinion measures to protect players already exist and are more than satisfactory. They believe the Commission and the Government should focus on making sure operators stick to the already existing measures rather than reaching for such extreme solutions.
One of the people in this camp is Gustaf Hoffstedt, Secretary General for Sweden’s BOS (online gambling trade association). Hoffstedt is convinced that any additional actions to further restrict or ban licensed operators would only benefit the unlicensed market.
As he explains, the country is already struggling with low channelization because of the already stated reasons. Many Swedes prefer offshore sites as it is and already existing measures make it hard for the licensed operators to compete. Further restrictions would make things even worse and Hoffstedt doesn’t believe this would be a smart move by the Government.
In the meantime, other countries are also trying to protect their citizens as much as possible during these difficult times, although none have banned online gambling. In Belgium, Denmark, and the UK, regulatory bodies are issuing advice to help players stay in control and don’t develop gambling problems.
The EGBA has also issued a set of guidelines with regards to marketing during the COVID-19 crisis, aiming to ensure some operators don’t try and take advantage of the situation.
Spain has gone a step further with additional marketing restrictions after seeing a sharp increase in player numbers. The country has banned all bonus promotions in an effort to protect players and control the number of new signups.