Sweden’s BOS repeats call for break up of Svenska Spel

BOS says Svenska Spel does not have a remit to offer commercial gambling.
BOS says Svenska Spel does not have a remit to offer commercial gambling.

BOS says the government should make a decision this year.

Sweden.- The Swedish online gambling trade association Branschföreningen för Onlinespel has repeated its calls for Svenska Spel to be broken up. It’s pushing for the government to call time on the state-controlled gambling operator this year.

BOS secretary general, Gustaf Hoffstedt wrote an op-ed for Sweden’s most important newspaper, Dagens Nyheter, in which he argued that Svenska Spel does not have a remit to offer commercial gambling, that is sports betting and online casino gaming as well as its lottery operations.

BOS argues that Svenska Spel is an anomaly in Sweden’s regulated gambling market, which opened up to the private competition in 2019. Svenska Spel operates the national lottery and keno gaming as a state monopoly but also competes with private companies in the sports betting and casino gaming verticals. For BOS this goes again the need for a “fundamental distinction between being the legislator and rule setter”. 

He said the continued presence of Svenska Spel Sport & Casino was unfair to Sweden’s 70 licensed operators since they have to compete for market share against a state-owned company. 

He wrote: “Svenska Spel, the state is active in both of these markets, but now the time has come to divest Svenska Spel Sport & Casino, – the unit of the company that is active in the commercial, competitive gambling.”

He said the only way that Svenska Spel’s commercial gambling offering could be justified was if “the market itself has failed, above all in terms of competition”. 

He added: “No one who has followed developments in the Swedish gambling market can claim that there is too little competition between the 70 companies that operate in competitive gambling. Competition is fierce and would remain so even in the absence of the state as a commercial casino operator and bookmaker in betting.”

He also claimed that Svenska Spel was detrimental to safer gambling objectives because it caused licensed operators to spend more money on advertising in order to compete. He also noted that a 2017 government evaluation had concluded that there was no distinction between Svenska Spel and private operators as they have the same licence.

“They follow exactly the same responsible gambling regulations, and they do it no better or worse than their competitors,” he wrote. “They pay exactly the same gambling tax as all other gambling companies”. 

Swedish gaming operators have long been pushing for a breakup of the state-controlled former gambling monopoly to no avail. However, the new coalition government is now controlled by the Moderates and the Democrats. Before the General Election last year, the Moderate Party had suggested that it would look to sell Svenska Spel if it entered power. 

The new minister in charge of gambling policy is Niklas Wykman in his role as minister for financial markets in Sweden’s new governing coalition. Wykman’s position marks a change in structure. Previously, minister for social affairs Ardalan Shekerabi was responsible for gambling. Putting the sector in Wykman’s purview is in keeping with the structure used by the previous Moderata-led government between 2006 and 2014.

“The moderates have long advocated a divestment of Svenska Spel Sport & Casino, as have the Sweden Democrats,” Hoffstedt wrote. “The voters who have given the centre-right parties the power to rule Sweden have very reasonable expectations that the government will now move from words to action.”

Regulated gambling generated SEK 6.77bn (€616.1m) in revenue in Sweden in the third quarter. According to the regulator, Spelinspektionen, record online gambling contributions in the three months ended September 30 drove revenue up by 7.2 per cent. 

Online gambling revenue came in at SEK 4.31bn, a rise of 10.5 per cent year-on-year and 2.1 per cent against Q2. Svenska Spel’s lottery and slot hall revenue totalled SEK 1.40bn, up 1.2 per cent year-on-year but down slightly from the previous quarter. Land-based gaming revenue was up 23 per cent year-on-year to SEK 5.9m.

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