Swedish survey shows national gambling participation is in steady decline

  • Report paints a picture of a struggling gambling market
  • Online gambling legislation could revive interest in gaming

Sweden’s gaming regulators have released figures from its annual survey of the national gambling market, revealing that gambling participation is still declining steadily.

However, the study also shows that problem gambling rates remain low and consistent, suggesting that Swedes take a very conservative approach to their gambling activities.

The survey by the Lotteriinspektionen board comes amid a period of change for gambling in Sweden. An easing of online casino restrictions will see licenses issued to commercial operators, ending state-owned Svenska Spel’s online monopoly – and this could lead to a revival of interest in gaming.

That revival will be hampered, however, by a ban on local advertising of online gambling services which was upheld last month.

Survey uncovers gambling trends in Sweden

Though the figures show that the four-year decline in gambling participation is continuing, the Lotteriinspektionen study does show that two-thirds of adults participated in some form of gambling during 2017.

Of those who did gamble, just 3% reported gambling too much. The figures include casual gaming such as lottery ticket purchases, accounting for a sizable portion of Svenska Spel’s annual SEK 1 billion (US $119 million) turnover.

The study also looked at reasons for gambling’s decline in popularity. More than one third of non-gamblers say they don’t play because they never win, while another 22% reported a lack of confidence in the gaming market itself.

With the largest national gambling company being state-owned and having a monopoly over legal online casino games, it seems players are becoming frustrated and rejecting the gambling market in general.

Online gambling liberalization to take effect by 2019

Sweden recently voted to change the online gambling law which has previously handed Svenska Spel complete control of the legal market in Sweden.

While international operators and commercial brands have been able to offer illegal gambling through foreign servers, the state-owned brand is still taking a 52% market share – and this monopoly could be contributing to players’ loss of faith in the gaming market.

International operators will be given the chance to apply for local online gaming licenses under the new legislation. The law will not take effect for more than a year, with no decision expected until after September 2018 national elections.

From early 2019, operators are likely to launch new online gaming services – but will this be too late for the sector to recover?

Advertising ban could hinder gaming promotion

A controversial measure which blocks online gambling adverts could reduce the impact a competitive online gaming market could have.

Last month, the Swedish Supreme Administrative Court upheld a decision to ban local media services from promoting gambling. The state’s Svenska Spel is not included in the ban, giving them chance to retain their monopoly even after the online gaming law changes.

A statement issued by the Lotteriinspektionen director general Camilla Rosenberg makes clear that “uncooperative media companies” will be pursued by prosecutors and that the ban will be firmly enforced by regulators.

This means even when online gaming companies finally secure their licenses late next year, they still may not be able to get a foothold in the market and attract an audience.

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