Online gambling regulation in the time of COVID-19

The last two months have been a challenging time. People have lost their jobs, businesses are closed, and whole industries have been brought to their knees. Online gambling is one of the few industries that has flourished during this time, due to many people being at home.

Sports betting has taken a hit as stadiums fall silent, yet traffic to online casinos has increased. eSports has become more popular and we have witnessed a shift in the way people bet, and what they bet on.

Some governments have taken a tough approach to online gambling regulation. These regulations have been designed to protect players at a time many are vulnerable. However, they have made operations increasingly difficult for casinos and sportsbooks.

The problem with Sweden

In Sweden, the government has introduced limits on how much bettors can bet. A weekly gambling deposit limit of around $500 was imposed along with bonus limits of significantly less. Operators reacted badly, claiming there was no direct increase in risk gambling since COVID-19 hit. They said there was no need for additional regulation and that doing so was just harming their businesses.

At the end of last week, ComeOn Group announced it was closing two of its Swedish-licensed brands in protest of government measures. They said they were closing down operations in Sweden and had relinquished its licenses. The company then stopped accepting new customers and deposits and said all existing accounts would be closed by 18 May.

Other States follow suit with online gambling regulation

In Spain and Belgium, limits have also been put in place on the industry and how it operates. These are much lighter measures that the Swedish government is considering taking. In April, government officials said they were considering following in the footsteps of Latvia and closing all online casinos temporarily. 

But analysts have said that such tough measures will do little to deter those that want to gamble. Instead, they will head to offshore sites or unregulated platforms to place their bets. Currently, in Sweden, around 25% of online gambling traffic goes to sites that operate illegally.

In Denmark, gambling regulators have forcibly closed 16 gamgling sites. Internet service providers have been instructed to enforce a blacklist order for sports betting, online casino and eSports betting platforms. Authorities say these sites were operating illegally and offering products to Danish citizens without authorisation.

The country’s gambling regulator also issued warnings against increased bingo activity. Authorities said that both legal, and illegal online bingo was becoming more popular as people wanted to be united. Dutch authorities noted a similar trend and demanded that those offering any kind of gambling services online, acquire the proper license to do so.

The UK government also urged the gambling industry to tackle the risks of problem gambling. In particular, operators should look out for gamblers whose issues could be exacerbated by the coronavirus outbreak.

So how should online gambling operators react?

We believe that the responsibility always falls on the operator to act in an ethical manner. While now is a great time to launch, or grow an existing online gambling business, care must be taken to abide by the rules. At Fast Offshore, we promote a culture of self-regulation among our clients, advising them on responsible gaming policies and other best practices. We work hard to create a culture of ethics amongst those we work with. As such, we can impart our 22 years of knowledge, to those in the online gambling world.

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