Sweden’s gaming referee ejects penalty wagers from the game
Everyone in Sweden knew changes were coming, but they didn’t know when. The country’s gambling regulator, Spelinspektionen, announced at the beginning of the year that it would be cracking down on the market in order to further combat potential match-fixing, particularly in soccer, directing its efforts primarily on prop bets and marketing. The hammer has now fallen and Spelinspektionen has spoken. A list of new rules for the sports gambling market has been produced and will take effect as of January 1, 2021. Operators have been given enough time to ensure they change their programs.
Going forward, wagers on things like how many yellow flags a game or player may see need to be stripped from the operators’ list of options. Expulsions and penalties are also going to be prohibited, as will any market that targets soccer outside the country’s leading four divisions – Allsvenskan, Division 1 Norra, Södra and Superettan – and the lower, six regional Division 2 leagues and under-21 international leagues. The outcome, according to the gambling regulator, is that there will no longer be any reason to try to “influence the outcome of gambling on the Swedish licensed market in the affected areas.”
It adds, “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 [SGA] has therefore chosen to place special emphasis on football and has taken into account views received from the consultative bodies.”
It didn’t take long for the new rules to start to receive complaints from gambling operators, which was to be expected. The secretary general for Branschföreningen för Onlinespel , a group of online gaming operators, was one of the more vocal, asserting that the introduction of the rules was nothing more than a political move to make Sweden’s major sports groups happy. Gustaf Hoffstedt, the secretary general, asserted in a statement, “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.”
As is almost always the case, the complaints are likely to fall on deaf ears. Spelinspektionen has laid down the law and getting it to change its mind is virtually impossible. Instead of trying to fight a losing battle, that energy would be better spent making the necessary changes and moving forward.
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