Sweden’s Administrative Court in Linköping this week ruled on 11 appeals against penalties leveled by the Swedish Gambling Authority on locally licensed gambling operators last summer.
Spelinspektionen, the Swedish gambling regulator, fined the operators after finding out that they offered betting on sporting events where the majority of participants were under the age of 18. Betting on such events is prohibited under Swedish law.
Spelinspektionen issued hefty fines on its licensees that were accompanied by warnings that repeated violations could even cost them their licenses to operate in Sweden.
The gambling companies appealed their penalties and the Administrative Court recently reviewed and issued its rulings on the 11 appeals. The court rejected five of these, amended another five to lower the penalty fees, and canceled one penalty.
The now canceled penalty was slapped on online sports betting operator Bethard, which was fined SEK2.5 million by Spelinspektionen in the summer of 2019. The court said in its ruling that while the operator’s offense was not “minor or excusable”, it was also “not serious.” The court ruled that Spelinspektionen decide whether Bethard should be fined and, if so, to determine the size of the penalty.
The Administrative Court lowered five of the fines imposed on errant gambling operators in its recent ruling on the matter. Polar Limited, which operates the Coolbet brand in the Swedish market, had its penalty lowered from SEK700,000 to SEK650,000.
In its appeal, Polar said that the Swedish Gambling Authority had different standards for different sporting events to determine if the majority of players were under the age of 18. The operator further clarified that the regulator counted non-playing squad members for one event but not for another.
Spelinspektionen admitted its error and agreed that the penalty should be lowered.
Casinostugan Ltd., which runs a brand of the same name in Sweden, had its fine lowered from SEK3.5 million to SEK3 million due to an error by a third-party technology provider.
Gaming Innovation Group was another operator that had its penalty reduced. The company’s Swedish subsidiary Zecure Gaming Limited was licensed to provide online gambling services through the Guts, Rizk, and Thrills brands.
GiG had its fine reduced from SEK3.5 million to SEK3 million after it managed to prove that its offering of betting on an underage sporing event was the result of a “single programming error.”
Last year, GiG shut its sports betting operations in Sweden due to the fine and the sportsbooks’ poorer-than-expected performance in the Swedish market.
Snabbare Ltd., an operation managed by Swedish gambling group Cherry, had its fine reduced from SEK9.5 million to SEK8 million. ComeOn, another Cherry-owned brand, saw its fine lowered from SEK6.5 million to SEK6 million.
The Administrative Court also lowered the fine slapped on online gambling operation Hajper from SEK4.5 million to SEK4 million.
The Administrative Court rejected five of the appeals filed by penalized operators, ruling that the seriousness of their violations matched the penalties levied by Spelinspektionen.
Bet365, which operates in Sweden via its subsidiary Hillside Sports, argued that the Swedish gambling regulator did not handle the issue in a transparent and fair way and that the independent body that had investigated locally licensed sportsbooks did not perform its probes into an equal manner. Bet365 was fined SEK10 million for offering betting on matches with predominantly underage participants.
Betfair, a brand owned by Irish gambling group Flutter Entertainment, also had its appeal dismissed. The sports betting operation, which was slapped with a SEK5.5 million fine last summer, argued that its penalty should be lifted because it had offered betting on an under-19s football match and while the majority of the participants in the event in question had been under 18, the majority in the competition had been older.
The Stars Group and GVC Holdings subsidiary ElectraWorks made a similar argument to Betfair’s, but both had their appeals rejected by the Administrative Court. The Stars Group was hit with a SEK10 million fine last summer, while GVC received a SEK5.5 million penalty for its violations.