The Swedish Gaming Authority has kicked off 2021 on the offensive. Earlier this month four licensed online casino operators were found guilty of “distributing gifts to vulnerable players” which the Inspectorate sees as a violation of their “duty of care in relation to the players in question”.
The Gaming Authority believes the limitations set out in the bonus section of the Swedish Gambling Act of 2019 is clear in its intent and its letter. It has thereby found the operators to be in violation and summarily fined them a total of €17.1 million (SEK 175 million).
Time to Pay the Piper
In all four cases, the operators were found to have provided players with bonuses in contravention of the law that states bonuses may only be offered to new players, not used as a reward or incentive for existing players.
As a result of proven communication between the loyalty and customer care departments of each of the offending casinos they were fined as follows:
- Faster Ltd – €6.3 million (SEK 65 million)
- Hajper Ltd – €4.9 million (SEK 50 million)
- ComeOn Sweden Ltd – €3.4 million (SEK 35 million)
- Casinostugan Ltd – €2.4 million (SEK 25 million)
While the Gaming Authority has published its findings, the fines and added a warning to the four operators licenses they do have the option to appeal.
Given how seriously the Swedish Gaming Inspectorate views what amounts to the abuse of the licensing agreement and potential harm of at-risk players it might behove the operators to attempt to clear their names by challenging the charges.
What Tripped Them Up?
From the documentation supplied by the Swedish Gaming Authority, it appears that all four online gambling operators had been reviewed in order to extend their commercial online gambling licenses.
As a part of this review process, it was determined that they had not complied with the spirit, and in some cases the letter, of the law regarding the provision of casino bonuses. Outside of the initial Welcome Bonus offered to new players financial incentives for existing players are deemed illegal in Sweden.
However, during the period in question, there was some confusion around the letter of the law regarding bonuses. It appeared to only disallow bonuses linked directly to a gambling action, which led many operators to offer free bonuses and Free Spins which had no deposit or wagering requirement.
The Inspectorate has since determined that while these offers did not have a stated demand for gambling, that by the very nature of the relationship between the player and the casino any cash or free spins received would result in wagers being placed, thereby contravening the clause dealing with incentivised gambling for existing players.
It is worth noting that the clause relating to bonus incentives was specifically tabled as part of the Gaming Authority’s safer gambling protocols, any operator found to be wilfully endangering the wellbeing of Swedish players runs the risk of having their license permanently revoked.