Sweden’s gambling regulator Spelinspektionen has issued fines to two gambling operators for breaching the country’s temporary restrictions.
Operators AB Trav och Galopp, which owns the atg.se and Sammen.atg.se gambling websites, and Spooniker, which owns several gambling websites including unibet.se and mariacasino.se, were both issued injunctions and fines by the regulator after they were found to have broken temporary deposit limits, FocusGN reports.
Back in July, Spelinspektionen introduced a SEK 5,000 deposit limit and a SEK 100 bonus offer limit on online casinos in the country over concern that COVID-19 restrictions in Sweden could lead to an increase in problem gambling.
In an announcement this week, Spelinspektionen confirmed that both operators had broken the temporary restrictions by allowing registered users to deposit more than the maximum permitted. The regulator says the operators increased player deposit limits and then reduced them once customers had made their deposits.
Announcing the news, the regulator said: “The Spelinspektionen combines the injunction with a fine of SEK 1M for each commenced week that the injunction is not complied with, calculated three weeks from the end of the week in which AB Trav och Galopp and Spooniker Ltd take part in the decision.”
It added: “By raising their deposit limits for betting and then, when the money has been deposited in the gaming account, lowering the deposit limit to SEK 5,000 per week or lower, players have been able to play for the full amount at the licensee’s online casino.”
Reports suggest that the temporary deposit limits on online casinos will be kept in place until mid-2021. Similarly, the UK Gambling Commission has imposed several restrictions on operators amid the COVID-19 pandemic in an attempt to curb an increase in problem gambling.
The restrictions on online casinos come as the wider gambling industry faces criticism for its “outdated” rules and regulations. Advertising has been one of the main focal points for the criticism with many people across the UK expressing concern that the lack of firm rules have allowed children and vulnerable people to be exposed to gambling across child-friendly websites, including YouTube.
In response to feedback from users concerned about the number of gambling ads seen on YouTube and third-party websites, Google has this week announced that it would be rolling out a new tool which will allow users on YouTube to block gambling and alcohol advertisements.
The new feature has been made available within the United States now and will be rolled out to the rest of the world, including the UK, from early 2021.
Although the feature will help users limit the number of gambling and alcohol advertisements they see on YouTube and sites that use Google Ads, the tech giant states the feature will not completely eliminate all chosen adverts but is confident that vast majority of ads will be blocked when the feature is applied.
According to The Verge, the feature can be accessed via Google’s Ad Settings and the options to block gambling and alcohol advertisements are separate, meaning users will be able to block one or the other, or both at the same time.
A spokesperson for the Betting And Gaming Council (BGC) praised the announcement, saying: “We have previously urged Google and other tech platforms to provide the option to stop seeing gambling adverts. We welcome this step in the right direction and hope to see it launch in the UK very soon.”
The Betting And Gaming Council has been one of the many companies working hard to raise standards within the gambling industry over the last year. Its efforts come as the UK Government launches its review into the Gambling Act 2005 As we’ve previously reported, the review will look at implementing maximum stake limits and potentially banning sports sponsorships, among other things.
In addition to launching a review of the Gambling Act, the UK Government announced that it would be conducting an early review of the Horseracing Betting Levy following urgent calls by the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) in its August Covid-19 Recovery Plan.
The recovery plan focuses on how the industry can cover its huge losses in revenue due to the absence of live spectators during the Coronavirus pandemic. The BHA’s plan called for an early review of the Levy system, which sees a 10% return of profits to the industry from off-course betting, to help stabilise its income.
As reported by The Guardian, the Levy system was last reformed in 2007 and was set to be reviewed in 2024. However, the review has now been pushed forward to next year, a move which has been welcomed by the BHA.
BHA Chief Executive Nick Rust issued a statement praising the Government’s decision, saying: “We welcome the announcement from the Minister [Nigel Huddleston] that the DCMS will examine in 2021 the timetable for reviewing the Levy. Racing industry leaders agreed there was an urgent case for reform as part of our plans to recover from Covid-19 and have presented a united front to government.
“As the Minister outlined in the House today, there are ongoing conversations between the BHA and Government on Levy reform. We look forward to working with DCMS officials and ministers to ensure the Levy is sustainable and fit for the digital age.”
Rust also backed the Government’s review of the Gambling Act 2005, saying: “We are pleased to hear that the review will be evidence-based and we look forward to proposals that are proportionate and focused on those at risk. We know the Government is aware of the potential impact on related industries such as British racing and the 80,000 livelihoods it supports.
“The Minister, Nigel Huddleston, made clear in his address that the challenging conditions that sports find themselves in, and the importance of legitimate commercial relationships between sport and gambling, will be considered as part of the review.”
It’s unclear how the wider Gambling and Horseracing Betting Levy review will impact the racing industry, and it’ll be several more months before any announcements are made.