Last month, operator Kindred Group, owner of 32Red and Unibet, published a letter condemning the Swedish Government’s draft regulation for additional player protection measures during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The measures, which are now due to come into force in July, include mandatory deposit limits of SEK 5,000 ($544.38) per week, mandatory time limits for online casino games and vending machines, and a max bonus offer limit of SEK 100.
Gambling Insider spoke with Alexander Westrell, global head of communication at Kindred, to ask about the operator’s own experiences of problem gambling during the pandemic and its reaction to the potential regulatory action.
What are your main thoughts on the introduction of stricter safer gambling measures in Sweden during the pandemic?
We have, from the beginning, expressed that we believe the new proposals from Minister Shekarabi are a step in the wrong direction. We are extremely concerned that the regulated Swedish gambling market continues to shrink, a trend confirmed by both the Swedish Agency for Public Management and in the report on channelisation from research firm Copenhagen Economics. This is a negative development for customers, for the licensed gambling companies, and for society as a whole.
Is it your belief that your competitors in the region share this opinion?
We can of course not speak on other companies’ behalf but the ones we have spoken to share our perspective of the current status. Together with other members of the Branschföreningen för Onlinespel trade association, we wrote a letter to Minister Shekerabi in which we question why Ardalan Shekarabi wants to torpedo the gambling policy and its regulations set by the Parliament. So yes, we do believe there is a consensus regarding this opinion.
What trends has Kindred observed in problem gambling during the pandemic?
Overall gambling during COVID-19 is down. For example, we can see through our tools that the number of detections on our monitoring system PS-EDS between March and April is down 35% and we can also see in our data that gambling overall across our brands has decreased during this period as there are virtually no sports to bet on.
In general, how do you think operators have behaved during the pandemic from a responsible gambling perspective?
Again – we can only speak for ourselves and responsible gambling has always been a priority for us and on the top of our agenda. During this troubling time for societies across the world, we have seen operators take action to tone down marketing and support their local communities in different ways. During Q1, 76% of customers adopted a healthier gambling behaviour after detection on PS-EDS. From January 1 to April 2 we have sent over 7,000 onsite messages and actively contacted almost 3,000 customers.
What effect do you think the pandemic will have on regulation post-COVID?
The highest priority right now is for all of us to stay safe and together fight this pandemic. We have seen some markets moving towards stricter regulations before COVID-19 and Kindred always apply and follow the rules within the markets we operate, while we also will speak our mind if we believe regulations harm the overall purpose of a safe, secure and stable gambling market. What is alarming is when politicians use COVID-19 for their own purpose without recognising the facts that are presented to them.