Sweden moves ahead with sports betting restrictions

Betting on lower domestic divisions will be banned.
Betting on lower domestic divisions will be banned.

The Swedish Gambing Authority will implement a ban on betting on sporting violations from next January.

Sweden.- The national regulator Spelinspektionen is to implement a ban on betting on sporting violations, including yellow and red cards, free kicks and penalties in football from January 1, 2021.

It will also ban betting on all but the top four divisions of football in Sweden (Allsvenskan, Superettan, Division 1 Norra and Södra) and the six regional Division 2 leagues as well as on under-21 internationals.

Betting on the individual performance of players aged under 18 will also be banned in all sports played in Sweden.

Operators will have to submit annual reports on suspected match-fixing as part of the changes, which were notified to the European Commission in May.

The measures are being introduced in a bid to tackle match-fixing. They apply only to domestic sport since the regulator believes there is little chance of major international fixtures being fixed for the benefit of the Swedish betting market.

The authority said lower tier football lacked the checks against match-fixing present in the higher divisions and that the incentives for players were greater.

It said: “Football is a high-risk sport when it comes to match-fixing and there are special risks with low divisions. Surveillance is poorer and practitioners do not make money from their sport.

“The Swedish Gambling Authority has therefore chosen to place special emphasis on football and has taken into account views received from the consultative bodies.”

Gustaf Hoffstedt, secretary general of online gaming operators’ association Branschföreningen för Onlinespel (BOS), criticised the move as political, claiming it was designed to appease the National Athletics Association, Swedish Football Association and politicians rather than enforce regulatory good sense.

He said: “Spelinspektionen claims to have found a well-balanced point between different interests but there is no balanced point in this matter. Either you believe restrictions for licensed companies lead to reduced match-fixing [or not].

“In that case, I wonder why Spelinspektionen can be content with these relatively peripheral restrictions. In that case, the only responsibility would be to impose restrictions on almost everything if one is so convinced that they have a positive effect.

“The Swedish Gambling Authority is often blamed for a lot of things when in fact it is the government that is to be held accountable.

“This case is unique however in that it is the SGA itself that has chosen to impose the restrictions and this without any analysis of their effect. This, of course, damages SGA’s reputation.”

He warned the rules could lead bettors to move to unregulated channels, which would make match-fixing harder to detect.

He said: “Could the SGA at least not have done something about the deficient channeling first and only then introduced new rules that are known in advance to damage the channeling?”

The International Betting Integrity Association (IBIA) has also voiced concerns about the measures, saying that there was little evidence they would have any significant impact on reducing match-fixing. 

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