ATG Opposing Bonuses, CEO Says They Drive Gambling Addiction

Sweden has been trying to reform its gambling scene and growing it while also making it more secure for players seems to be a polarizing hurdle that’s stalling the process. Those leaning more towards the business side of the problem suggest easing regulation to allow the market more space to grow. However, there are also those who oppose them, criticizing growth without improving gambling harm prevention is not sustainable.

Equating Bonuses to Expired Goods

A blog publication posted to ATG Gaming’s company blog page carries a message from the Swedish horse racing operator’s CEO, Hasse Lord Skarplöth. According to a translation of the post, Skarplöth thinks that bonuses are “embarrassing,” since it makes it seem that the product – in this case, the game – doesn’t have enough merits on its own.

He went on to compare this to a “surplus of expired canned goods.” He even called offering bonuses a “trap” and a “stupid idea”, commenting that ATG had elected to try providing bonuses a few years back, and not only it felt wrong, because it drives “gambling addiction”, but it also wasn’t a successful strategy, as apparently, it failed to bring in “new additions of customers”.

Skarplöth commented that it’s not “possible to put equal signs between being the biggest and being the best” because this is “not for a second allowed” if you’re the biggest. He argues that “a bonus offer, however mundane” can be a trigger for relapse into problem gambling for the vulnerable players, hence “bonuses and sustainable gambling don’t actually work at all”.

To some, this seems to create a Catch-22-situation, especially for those seeing bonuses as instrumental in the attraction and retention of customers. How can the business grow if one of its best tools for attraction and retention is off the table? That is the question that people who disagree with Skarplöth put forward.

Gaming Reforms Spark Controversy

Dr Nima Sanandaji is one of those people, and he even goes as far as saying that by not allowing bonuses on the regulated market, players are turning to the black market, which in turn is harmful to the Swedish economy because it translates into unrealized tax revenue.

A report that Dr. Sanandaji authored on behalf of Branschföreningen för Onlinespel (BOS) – Sweden’s Industry Association for Online Gambling – was published in May this year. In it, Dr. Sanandaji explains his findings that denying bonuses to the most loyal and “the most gaming consumers” leads to them leaving regulated platforms in favor of gaming on the black market, which coincidentally does offer bonuses. There is a case to be made about these markets being even more dangerous to players, as the lack of regulation also means a lack of safeguards that industry standards mandate.

This is a very important discussion, as the Swedish government proposed a slew of changes to gaming regulation in the country, all aimed at making the Swedish gaming market a safer and more sustainable one. Its proposals include widening the jurisdiction and increasing the influence of the Swedish Gambling Authority has fixes for match-fixing, and much more, including the ban on bonuses.

What the proposed changes mean for businesses, if they’re implemented in their current form in 2023, boils down to stricter regulation and more safeguards for consumers, so the proposed changes are definitely more user-focused. ATG seems to agree with this route, and the company is supporting a more user-centric market not only with its self-imposed implementation of banning bonuses ahead of time.

At the beginning of this year, ATG reported to Spelinspektionen – the Swedish gaming regulator – a two-week deficiency in its self-exclusion program by not having the option available for certain players in the space between January 13 to January 28 because of a technical issue.

ATG was fined SEK 2 million (approximately $188,434 at the time) as a result. Although this might seem excessive since ATG self-reported the technical issue and it affected only a specific portion of its players, the problem is still important for the Swedish market, especially keeping in mind that just last month the Swedish self-exclusion program reached eighty thousand registrations.

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