Sweden to Finally End Pandemic Online Casino Limits

After well over a year, Sweden will finally scrap its weekly temporary online casino player restrictions in mid-November. 

Following the removal of the controversial measures, Spelinspektionen – the country’s gambling regulator – will look at whether or not they made an impact. 

A long time coming

In a bid to avoid a spike in problematic online gambling behaviours during COVID-19, Sweden’s government agreed on temporary restrictions for online casino games in June 2020. These came into force one month later.  

At the time, Ardalan Shekarabi – Swedish Social Security Minister – said: 

“As a result of the current pandemic, we see a mix of circumstances that together create great risks in the gaming sector.

“These need to be counteracted. With these measures, the government will strengthen the protection of Swedish consumers.”

At the time, it was expected that those measures would be lifted again at the end of the year. However, due to the pandemic’s continuation, the measures were extended until June 2021. 

As of that date, however, they still weren’t lifted. But now, with the virus seemingly under control in Scandinavia’s largest country, that will change. 

What measures were introduced? 

The most controversial introduced measure was a mandatory deposit cap for all online casino players in the country. Individuals weren’t allowed to deposit more than 5,000 Swedish Kronor, which is roughly £423.  

Another hotly-disputed change was that players were obliged to set time limits. On top of that, regulated operators could only offer maximum bonuses of SEK100 – which is less than £10. 

The measures mentioned above applied to online casinos and slots, but not sports betting. 

Several members of the Swedish iGaming sector weren’t happy with these restrictions. Spelinspektionen questioned whether such drastic measures would make much of a difference while also warning that more players might turn to unregulated operators. 

Google Trends data also shows that “casino utan svensk licens” (casinos without Swedish licence) search volume rose in 2020 and also spiked in the summer of 2021 – though it has now evened out. 

Will new changes to Swedish gambling laws come into effect? 

Having been in force for almost 18 months, Spelinspektionen has plenty of data to conclude whether or not the measures were effective. 

After announcing the end of the temporary measures, Shekarabi said: 

“Turnover in the gaming market has increased, and online gaming has probably benefited from changed consumption patterns since the reregulation.

There is a risk that this has led to a long-term behavioural change with increased gambling. This is a development that should be followed up to see if there is a need for further measures.”

COVID-19 in Sweden 

Despite many countries taking drastic measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19, Sweden took more of a hands-off approach — despite receiving international scrutiny for doing so.

The gamble seems to have paid off. Over 14 million vaccine doses have been given, which – if everyone took two – would translate to 70.2% of the country’s 10 million people being fully vaccinated.  

Daily infections have fluctuated in recent months but are much lower than the peak last winter – and also a lot less than other European countries.