A court of appeals in Sweden has moved to reduce the penalty fees imposed on Genesis Global and AG Communications – a subsidiary of Aspire Global by Spelinspektionen, the Swedish gambling regulator. The verdict was for an April 2019 case where the two gaming operators were slapped with penalties worth SEK4 million ($480K) and SEK3 million ($360K) respectively by Spelinspektionen a month before.
According to the Swedish gaming ombudsman, Genesis and Aspire had failed to integrate the Spelpaus – the country’s mandated self-exclusion tool on their platforms to protect vulnerable players. Sweden’s gaming laws had just come into effect on January 1st, 2019, and they required all operators to add the Spelpaus tool to their online gaming sites.
Technical Faults Landed the Gaming Operators in Trouble
Genesis Global, the operator behind brands like Casino Joy, Play.com, Vegas Hero, and Sloty, came under fire after some of its patrons raised complaints to Spelinspektionen. The players pointed out that they were still allowed to access gambling games on Genesis Global’s websites even after enrolling in the country’s self-exclusion program. In its defence, Genesis Global indicated that it had actually integrated its sites with the self-exclusion service. But then, the operator explained that the tool had not been active for 33 days due to technical difficulties from a third party
On the other hand, Aspire Global was sanctioned after its brand, AG Communications, failed to integrate the Spelpaus self-exclusion tool on its gaming website for 9 days. Likewise, Aspire Global also explained that the failure was also a technical blunder and acted with immediate effect to correct the error after being warned by Spelinspektionen. However, even though Aspire Global, known for operating online gaming brands like Mr. Play and Karamba, moved swiftly to rectify the mistake, it was still smacked with the hefty fine.
Two Petitions Back-to-Back After Spelinspektionen’s Fines
After the fine was issued by the Swedish regulator, Genesis Global and Aspire Global challenged the decisions to the Administrative Court in Linköping. The duo claimed that the penalties were unjust, as the failings were because of technical faults. Spelinspektionen, however, stood by its decision to issue the fines as it is mandated by law, given that operators had failed to abide by the country’s self-exclusion regulations.
Spelinspektionen had imposed the fines based on each operator’s gross turnover, which was rightfully done. However, Administrative Court in Linköping objected to how the regulator calculated the turnover as it led to the inflation of the fine to improper amounts according to the court’s investigations. Consequently, the Linköping Administrative Court ended up slashing the penalties by half to SEK2 million ($240K) and SEK1.4 million ($180K) for Genesis and Aspire, respectively.
The duo still wasn’t satisfied with the 50% penalty cut and went to contest the fine once again at the Court of Appeal in Jönköping. Global and Aspire claimed that the financial repercussions weren’t justified as their self-exclusion failings never resulted in any negative consequences.
The court sided with the gaming ombudsman about there being a financial penalty given the severity of the offences but disputed the calculation of the annual turnover. Sweden’s regulator had used January and February 2019 figures to reach the penalties, a decision that the court said led to inaccurate fines. As such, both penalties were further reduced to SEK 1 million ($120K) for each operator.
Part of the ruling of Court of Appeal in Jönköping reads:
“In general, the administrative court finds that it has been shown that the company has breached its obligation to deny self-sexcluded players access to play in the manner that follows from relevant regulation. With regard to the size of the penalty fee, however, the Court of Appeal believes that the penalty fee should be set at an amount that more generally reflects the seriousness of the infringements in question, instead of being based on the companies’ turnover. The Court of Appeal considers that the sanction fee decided by the Spelinspektionen is too high, and that it should instead amount to SEK 1m.”
Two months after the first penalty was imposed to Genesis and AG Communications in 2019, Spelinspektionen smacked the two operators with fines for breaching bonus regulations. Genesis received a SEK 1.7 million ($204K) penalty, whereas AG Communications was hit with a SEK 500,00 ($60K) fine. Both parties appealed yet again, but only Genesis’ was reduced.