Gambling in a time of crisis
The Covid-19 virus crisis has hit the online
gambling sector at a particularly sensitive time.
Before the lockdown, the sector was already
suffering from a backlash in many regulated
territories, with above-the-line advertising of
gambling as the locus of the complaints.
An advertising ban is already in place in Italy
and Spain, while in the UK, Sweden and Denmark
various forms of restriction are either being
spoken about by legislators or actively pursued
The trend towards a hardening anti-gambling
stance picked up pace after lockdowns were
imposed across Europe from March. In Latvia,
online gambling has been temporarily shuttered
altogether until the lockdown is lifted and in
Portugal, new legislation has been proposed that
would limit access to online gambling services.
In Spain, the government said that alongside the
advertising ban, it would also take action against
bonuses and other marketing activities while the
population was being forced to stay at home.
Similarly, the UK and Sweden saw the ratchet of
greater regulatory control tightened even as the
countries took differing approaches to tackling
No letup in the UK
In the UK, despite the efforts of the Betting and
Gaming Council (BGC) to take the sting out of
the arguments of the critics, it has ended up in
a situation where despite a voluntary ban on all
gambling advertising being offered up, the antigambling
lobby has continued its attacks.
Notably, a letter from the Gambling Related
Harm All Party Parliamentary Group has called for
this voluntary ban to be extended to all forms of
marketing and that it be made permanent.
But despite the current crisis and the
increasingly divisive arguments between the
industry and its critics, the recent trading
statements from selected UK-listed operators
suggest a degree of robustness, particularly for
those that are largely online gaming-focused.
For those with significant sports betting
exposure, it is a waiting game to see when elite
sport will return.
Questions over Swedish success
Meanwhile, in Sweden the authorities have moved
to impose deposit bonus limits while arguments
rage around the levels of gambling advertising
and ministers have brought up the issue of
betting on lower league football games.
However, a recent report commissioned by
the Swedish gambling operators’ association
from consultancy firm Copenhagen Economics
suggests that moves by Swedish authorities to
tighten up their regime are affecting the rate of
channelisation of the regulated market.
This is a vital area not just in relation to Sweden.
Every jurisdiction that opts for a regulated online
gambling regime is attempting to corral what
might have previously been grey market activity
into the regulated sphere.
In Sweden, the authorities have made much of
what they view as their 90%-plus success rate in
channelling online play since the market opened
in January 2019.
However, the CE report poses some questions
about the official figures and suggests that in
online casino in particular, the rate of market
capture might be much lower. In fact, it suggests
that one in every four bets in that vertical goes to
the offshore market.
iGB Market Monitor • The UK and Sweden • May 2020 2