Swedish trade body says GGR tax rise “the best Christmas present” for the black market

BOS claims tax increase to 22% is at odds with government’s strategy to improve gambling market as group cites slipping channelisation rate in Nordic country  

The Swedish Trade Association for Online Gambling (BOS) has fired back against the government’s proposed gross gambling revenue (GGR) tax increase. 

In a damning seven-page retort to the proposed measures, the BOS has said the suggestion of a four percentage point GGR tax raise form 18% to 22% is “in conflict with all of the government’s stated goals for the gambling market”.

The tax increase could come into effect from 1 July 2024 should the measure be approved in the Swedish government.

The reasoning behind this proposed increase is to retcon the previous level that was introduced as a “precautionary” measure to allow the market to flourish, following re-regulation of the Swedish market in 2019.

Now, the government wants to increase the tax as channelisation stabilises and to boost the state’s purse.

However, the BOS has suggested a GGR tax increase will have a further negative effect on channelisation, and refuted claims from the government that channelisation in the market had stabilised.

The trade body said an increase in tax would merely strengthen the “competitiveness of unlicensed gambling in Sweden”, while noting there was a lack of recently published figures from the government on the market’s channelisation rate.

An unofficial target of 90% channelisation has long been earmarked however a report in March from the BOS alleged the rate stood at just 77%, with that figure falling to just 72% for online casino.

The BOS also cited figures from Swedish operator ATG which showed overall channelisation had dropped to 70%, with the online casino rate down to 59%.

The BOS said: “The government simply lacks a basis for its claim, it demonstrates another general shortcoming in the government’s memorandum [including] the lack of data, basis, preparation and analysis.”

Alongside this, the trade body referenced a study conducted by the consulting firm Copenhagen Economics on behalf of the BOS in 2016, which looked at the optimal tax rate.

That study found that the tax rate should be between 15 and 20%, and anything above this level would lead to a lower channelisation rate and lower tax revenue for the state. 

The BOS continued: “Today’s critically low channelisation bears witness that the tax in this sensitive situation should under no circumstances be increased. Instead, the government and the Riksdag should urgently devote themselves to reforms that strengthen channelisation.”

While firing back at the government for this proposed increase, the trade body did praise some government initiatives that looked to suppress the illegal market in Sweden, highlighting the implementation of B2B permits, payment blocks and bans on promoting of unlicensed sites. 

However, the BOS said that while clamping down on the black market with one hand, the government was essentially supporting its growth by proposing a GGR tax rate increase.

Gustaf Hoffstedt, BOS general secretary, commented: “The government can hardly time its proposal to raise the gambling tax to a worse time.

“We are in a situation where fewer and fewer players choose to play on the safe licensed market, and more and more on the unregulated, unlicensed gambling market.

“That the government proposes to raise the tax for licensed gambling is the best Christmas present you can think of for the unregulated and unlicensed gambling market.”

Last week, the Swedish Gambling Authority (SGA) said that it had no “substantive views” on the proposed GGR tax increase.

Alongside giving its viewpoint on the tax increase, the SGA did note that there could be a potential impact on the channelisation rate as a result of the increase. 

The regulator said: “The SGA sees that an increase in the tax on gambling may effect, among other things, the channelling rate.”

The regulator noted that in the past two quarters, there has been a downturn in total market turnover and that it was particularly visible among licence holders.

The SGA added: “Thus, there are already some changes in the gaming market that could lead to a reduced tax base, although it is uncertain whether the decline is temporary or more permanent.”

 

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