Sweden’s Stringent Gambling Laws Responsible for Offshore Gambling Popularity

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Sweden’s strict gambling laws have failed to prevent Swedes from partaking in offshore gambling. Gambling is subject to tight regulations in Sweden, especially when it comes to gambling sites that operate outwith the country, known as offshore betting sites. In 2019, new laws were introduced that made it illegal for any betting site that was not regulated by Sweden’s gambling regulatory authority to advertise towards the Swedish market.

New rules were also introduced to limit what licensed gambling sites could offer bettors. For example, it became illegal for regulated betting sites to offer bonuses and promotions. This change was made to discourage gamblers from taking advantage of these offers and betting excessively.

However, Swedish bettors can still find generous bonuses and promotions on offshore gambling sites, hence why so many opt to use illegal gambling sites for their betting fix. In fact, Michael Graw notes that some of these sites offer welcome bonuses of up to 600% of the player’s original deposit, some even matching players’ deposits up to a massive $25,000.

In contrast, Sweden’s entire gambling market is regulated by the Swedish Gambling Authority (Spelinspektionen) who impose strict gambling laws and regulations. They enforce laws to keep gambling safe and secure and go to lengths to try and prevent payments between Swedish gamblers and offshore betting sites from happening.

Still, Swedish gamblers can bypass these “payment blocks” by using alternative payment methods like Finshark that are accepted by offshore betting sites.

In July 2023, the account-to-account payment service Zimpler was fined SEK25m by the Swedish Gambling Authority for enabling payments to be made between Swedish residents and unlicensed gambling sites.

This follows alarming statistics that emerged regarding Sweden’s relationship with illegal gambling sites as well as the Swedish Gambling Authority’s drive to clamp down on offshore betting site usage, as expressed in a 2023 report created by the director general of Spelinspektionen, Camilla Rosenberg.

However, the increase in gambling regulation in Sweden could be seen to have had a counter effect on gamblers. Like in a lot of other countries, Swedes have turned to offshore betting sites to enjoy fewer restrictions, bigger sign-up bonuses, and potentially bigger wins.

The Swedish Gambling Authority also controls the register for Sweden’s self-exclusion gambling scheme, which is called Spelpaus. The scheme allows gamblers in Sweden to self-exclude themselves from regulated gambling sites should they feel that they need to take a break from betting.

A person who signs up to the scheme will not be allowed to visit any online gambling sites that are regulated by the Swedish Gambling Authority. Upon signing up, they can select how long they want the exclusion to last.

Most countries have a similar self-exclusion scheme in place to help people curb their gambling addiction. However, Sweden’s could be viewed as being stricter as the player is unable to cancel or delete their self-exclusion before the date they selected.

So, if a self-excluded gambler feels like they’re capable of responsibly returning to gambling early, they won’t be able to - unless they go to offshore sites, as these are not part of the Spelpaus scheme.

In 2020, a survey concluded that 38% of those who had signed up for the scheme had continued to gamble on non-regulated sites even after self-excluding themselves.

Another reason why offshore gambling has increased in popularity in recent years is because regulated Swedish gambling has become less private.

Like in most countries, Swedish bettors need to undergo a lengthy sign-up process to partake in online gambling. During this process, they have to provide their name, address, phone number, as well as other personal information.

Due to the country’s anti-money laundering (AML) laws, bettors are also required to provide supporting documents to prove their identity. Even after all that, their registration could be subject to rejection.

Plus, licensed operators are required to provide player data to the Swedish Gambling Authority so that they can monitor player behaviour and identify any concerning play patterns. Specifically, gambling sites will need to provide data on the following:

Player transactions
Betting history
The games played
Gaming session length
Money deposited and money withdrawn

On the other hand, offshore betting sites do not have as strict a sign-up and monitoring process. Instead, players can sign up to gamble without even providing their name or identity. This, obviously, has a lot of appeal in countries like Sweden.

Without having to go through a lengthy verification process, Swedish gamblers can start betting sooner than they would be able to on a Sweden-based website. Plus, problem gamblers may feel less restricted on illegal gambling sites.

Swedish betting sites are required to provide a range of features to help promote responsible gambling. This includes betting limits, session time limits, and other player checks to prevent gamblers from betting beyond their means. These restrictive measures may not be present on offshore sites, which may encourage problem gamblers to choose them instead of regulated sites.

However, the popularity of offshore gambling sites in Sweden cannot be blamed entirely on the restrictions imposed by the Swedish Gambling Authority.

Offshore gambling levels are a problem for most countries that support a regulated gambling infrastructure - even in countries where gambling regulations are relatively relaxed.

This is because certain characteristics of offshore gambling make it hard for passionate gamblers to ignore.

For example, the offshore gambling market can be a lot more diverse and exciting. Offshore sites give players access to bigger player pools, meaning they can play the likes of poker against a wide range of opponents from all over the world.

Unregulated gambling sites also tend to have a wider game selection than their regulated counterparts, giving players more choice when it comes to how to bet their money.

This, on top of their less restrictive nature, is why offshore gambling sites are popular - not just in Sweden, but the rest of the world, too.

For example, the UK Government is looking to give the UK’s gambling regulatory body, the Gambling Commission, more power to control black market betting sites. The UK’s gambling laws are not as strict as Sweden's, which proves that tight gambling restrictions don’t necessarily lead to growth in black market sites.

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