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Swedish monopolies lead cross-sectoral collaboration

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ATG and Svenska Spel used to hold exclusive positions on the Swedish market. However, since 2019, they have been facing competition from commercial sectors. Daniel O’Boyle talks to ATG’s Hasse Skarploth, Svenska Spel’s Patrik Hobauer and Kindred’s Hasse Skarploth about their current challenges.

Most people in Sweden believe that online gambling began on 1 January 2019. Svenska Spel and AB Trav och Galopp have been online operators for many years.

Svenska Spel was the state lottery of Sweden. It held the monopoly over many gambling forms in the country. It operated and still operates the Casino Cosmopol land-based brand, as well as the Vegas slot arcade chain and Sport & Casino online.

ATG focused its attention on the horse-racing vertical, and held a monopoly in this area.

It would be inaccurate to claim that the online grey market in Sweden was thriving before 2019.

ATG CEO Hasse Lord Skarploth

From our perspective, there is more competition from the 1st January 2019 onwards. In reality, it wasn’t a major change since we already had 20 competitors,” ATG Chief Executive Hasse Lord Skarploth points out.

Safer gambling requires transparency

Svenska Spel’s chief executive Patrik Hobauer, and Skarploth both cite the reregulation as a contributing factor to a problem they have each identified: a general lack of confidence in the gaming sector.

Hofbauer explains that “before we started the new regulation, there was an increase of advertising by gaming companies in the second and first halves of 2018.” And also some pretty aggressive advertising, because everyone is trying to gain or protect their market share.

Svenska Spel CEO Patrik Hofbauer

It was all about the online casino, about free spins, quick payouts etc. All of these things, without trying, contributed to a negative image of the online casino industry.

The same thing has happened. “The public’s opinion of advertising by gambling and gaming companies is very negative.”

Reporting enhanced

Both operators’ latest initiative was a response to this lack of confidence. It binds them together, even though they are only two licensed Swedish operators.

Both operators committed to reporting four important statistics on responsible gambling twice a year to improve industry transparency.

Skarploth: “Transparency and information, in my opinion, are key to trust.”

Kindred, a commercial operator in Sweden, joins two former monopolies to showcase the Swedish landscape. Unibet was the first operator to spearhead its own effort in increasing responsible gambling reporting.

The three operators are required to report on the number of clients who have been contacted after a gambling behavior was detected.

ATG, Svenska Spel and kindred all agreed to report certain responsible gambling statistics publicly

They will also report the average amount of money these customers reduced their wagering, as well as how many people chose to exclude themselves after an interaction.

Svenska Spel, ATG look to change minds

Will it affect the outcome?

Skarploth: “I believe that we can change the opinions, or we should not do this.”

Both he and Svenska Spel’s Hofbauer note, however, that it will not be easy.

Hofbauer explains that the initiative should be viewed as an initial step towards a longer-term goal of making gambling more transparent. Remember, our primary target was the stakeholders.

It will improve the image of the industry and ultimately change public perception.

This is not going to be a quick sprint. It’s more of a marathon. It will take time.

The challenge is to get the public understand and accept the stats, as well as believe that operators make a real difference. The public may not believe that the industry really is transparent if it has low trust.

Skarploth is confident that this initial step will attract those who are interested in numbers.

Skarploth says, “The important thing is to make sure that the people who are interested in the issues get the information. I don’t think that everyone will be interested but will recognize that the issue has been addressed and will also convey a positive message.”

What KPIs do Svenska Spel & ATG track?

Skarploth and Hofbauer both hope more companies will report similar data and join the program in the future. Hofbauer explains that the KPIs selected were ones which operators must collect in Sweden and then report to national regulators.

Hofbauer explains that the starting point for the project was to look at the data all licensed gambling companies were required to submit to Spelinskpektionen (the regulator of the country). We agreed to four KPIs that we thought would be most relevant to stakeholders.

Hofbauer says that other operators have already expressed interest in joining the program.

He said, “We received a positive reaction from other gaming companies that are interested in joining the initiative.” There is strength in numbers. This will work better if more industry colleagues get involved. Remember, we utilised existing data. “Nobody has to reinvent anything.”

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