Sweden is going to bring back online gaming restrictions as the omicron variant of COVID-19 starts to make its presence known in the country. Restrictions had been introduced during the first wave but, this time, they’re being tightened. The country asserts that the measures are needed to combat a rise in online gaming during the pandemic, despite a study on the subject not having yet been completed. As far as Spelinspektionen, the country’s gaming regulator, is concerned, the return of the measures makes sense.
Spelinspektionen Online Gaming Back on Restrictions
Temporary restrictions are being reintroduced to Sweden’s online gambling as the government and the Swedish Gambling Inspectorate are concerned about the spread of the COVID-19 omicron variant. The restrictions are expected to be put into place as of February 7 and will last at least four months.
Temporary measures were implemented in June 2020 in response to the rapid spread of COVID-19 in the region. At the time, the weekly deposit limit was SEK5,000 ($496) and a SEK100 ($44) cap was placed on bonus offers. Additionally, there was a limit on how much time one could spend gambling online.
This time, in light of recent developments in Sweden, the measures now include a lower weekly limit for deposits of SEK4,000 ($444). The time limits and bonus offers will also be restricted.
The measures were introduced by Ardalan Shakarabi, Sweden’s Minister of Health and Social Affairs. It was said that the lockdown situation is a dangerous combination of many circumstances that could increase the likelihood of gambling addiction.
Camilla Rosenberg, Director General of Spelinspektionen, Rosenberg stated she was not required to express an opinion but that she did not object to the temporary liability measures being reinstated. However, she said it was too soon for her department to comment on the future and ongoing effects of the policies.
Plenty of Criticism Over the Measures
Shekarabi has been criticized for his decisions. However, the Swedish Trade Association for Online Gambling (BOS, for its Swedish acronym) has been the most vocal.
BOS Secretary-General Gustaf Hoffstedt argues that the new limitations make it more difficult for operators to protect their users. Instead of adhering to the rules, online gamblers look for alternatives, including offshore platforms.
On November 14 of last year, the temporary gambling restrictions were lifted. However, Shekarabi requested that Spelinspektionen evaluate the online gaming safeguards as part of the relaxation of the rules. The assignment is to be completed in consultation with the Swedish Public Health Agency, The Swedish Consumer Agency, and the Swedish Enforcement Agency.
Spelinspektionen maintains the evaluation is still ongoing, with an end date of March 15. However, it stated that it is too early for any definitive conclusions. This would seem to indicate that the implementation of the rules, and the lowering of spending limits, is not based on any fact or verifiable research.