BOS: Swedish government collapse ‘positive’ for betting sector

The recent announcement that Prime Minister of Sweden, Stefan Löfven, has requested the dissolution of his government has prompted a response from BOS, the Swedish Trade Association for Online Gambling.

BOS has argued that the political developments could have positive consequences for Sweden’s betting and gaming industry, the developments would ‘at least slow down the process to impose stricter regulation on private international gambling’ as well as provide ‘further benefits to operators with close ties to the government’.

Löfven made his decision after the Swedish parliament, the Rikstag, delivered a vote of no confidence in his government, leaving him with the option of requesting his administration be dissolved, or calling an extra election within three months. 

The Speaker of the Rikstag will have four attempts to suggest a new Prime Minister, and should all be rejected by legislators an extra election will be held within three months, followed by the scheduled general election in September 2021.

Meanwhile, as the search for a new Prime Minister gets underway, the incumbent government will – as dictated by Swedish governmental traditions – continue to run the country’s day-to-day functionalities without making any ‘politically sensitive’ issues, until a new government with the full backing of the legislature is accepted.

BOS currently predicts two political outcomes as a result of Löfven’s decision, with the first being the return of the Prime Minister at the head of a centre-left government, which would see the continuation of the current course of action should Minister Ardalan Shekarabi – of whom BOS has been highly critical in the past – return to a position of authority over the gambling industry.

Although the potential consequences of the political situation are far ranging and could have significant consequences, Gustaf Hoffstedt, BOS secretary general, remarked that the trade association viewed the political developments as being ‘positive’ In his official statement, largely due to Shekarabi vacating his position.

“The reason for this is that the incumbent Minister, Mr Ardalan Shekarabi, repeatedly has shown that he doesn’t have a functioning gambling market as his first priority,” Hoffstedt explained.

“The possibility to pick political points by criticising and making life miserable for the privately owned and international gambling industry always comes first, hand in hand with his willingness to offer state owned and/or state governed gambling operators special treatment.”

Overseeing an overhaul of Sweden’s gambling regulations, the incumbent Social Democratic Party initiated its ‘Gambling Market Enquiry’ in 2020, which made a number of recommendations of legislative changes and oversight, some of which were accepted by the the Gambling Inspectorate, Spelinspektionen, whilst others were rejected.

Additionally, the administration – via the Ministry of Finance – published a memorandum earlier this month suggesting a change in gambling marketing regulations from ‘moderation’ to ‘special moderation’, prompting a negative response from BOS.

The consultation period for this proposal will continue to October 14 – largely in tandem with the Gunnar Larsson inquiry on channelisation and anti-match fixing, due to be finalised onSeptember 30. BOS has noted that the handling of both the proposal and the inquiry depends heavily on the political circumstances in October. 

Furthermore, BOS has stated that it believes ‘that the government intended to propose an extensive gambling bill covering many regulatory topics to the Rikstag prior to the next general election’, but added that although preparations may continue ‘it is likely that the process is slowing down’, a development again described as ‘positive’.

Finally, the incumbent Sweidsh government under Löfven has also introduced a raft of temporary COVID-19 restrictions, which BOS has argued will be ‘difficult for the government to extend beyond November 14’ due to aforementioned Swedish political tradition, but at the same time will be more difficult to shorten down for the same reason.

The alternative scenario, the trade association concluded, is that a centre-right government will be formed under the leadership of the Moderate Party. According to BOS, the long-term ramifications of this for the gambling industry are difficult to predict.

Some Moderate Party politicians hold ‘positive and liberal’ attitudes to the sector whilst others maintain more negative opinions ‘shaped in beliefs of public health, religion and conservatism’, and so the consequences of a right-leaning government for the betting and gaming market are not set in stone.

Hoffstedt acknowledged that the return of Prime Minister Löfven and Minister Shekarabi to their respective positions in a future government is still a possibility due to the opposition facing difficulties in forming a parliamentary acceptable administration. 

However, he has reiterated his argument that the changes in the political landscape are ultimately beneficial to the betting and gaming industry.

“The development is also positive in the aspect that it shows that the government acts without support from the Parliament in gambling regulatory issues,” he added.

“During his years in office Minister Shekarabi has wasted the support from the opposition he had prior to the Swedish reregulation. 

“Almost all political parties agreed on the agenda regarding gambling regulation five to ten years ago. Nowadays the opposition often criticises the Minister for his action in areas related to gambling, claiming that he has abandoned the agenda that jointly was decided prior to the reregulation in 2019.”

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