Swedish Minister Criticized For False Claims On iGaming Growth During Covid-19

The Swedish parliamentary committee has criticized Minister of Social Security, Ardalan Shekarabi for claiming the gambling industry took a rise during the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The claims made by Shekarabi were assessed by Riksdag’s Constitutional Committee (Konstitutionsutskottet/KU) during its annual report focusing on the annual development of the Swedish Government.

Shekarabi claimed during a press conference held on 23 April 2020, which was held to discuss temporary measures, claimed to better protect punters from Covid-19.

The regulation included SEK 5,000 as a deposit limit that was originally intended to cover all products, instead of limiting it to online casinos as well as a limit on playing time and bonus restriction.

The deposit was introduced to protect customers during the pandemic restrictions and shut down; the deposit was used till the end of 2020. However, the deadline has been expanded multiple times, most recently till November 2021.

Shekarabi, during his April 2020 press conference, said, “What we see now is a dangerous cocktail of several circumstances that risk the increase of problem gambling and gambling addiction.”

“The picture of this problematic situation is further strengthened when we see the gambling statistics available. Here, there are indications of increased gambling on the most dangerous games.”

After inspection, KU believes that Shekarabi should only provide correct information from liable sources.

Reciting section written in KU’s report, “The review shows that the government has based its statement on information that does not provide space for any definite conclusion as to whether or not gambling had increased,”

“The Minister for Social Security is responsible for his opinions and thus also for the information he provides.”

In support of KU’s latest findings, the committee cited the Swedish State-owned operator Svenska Spel, which was used by Shekarabi as a source of information, “misleading” two weeks before he made the claims.

The report also cited the data produces by the country’s gambling regulatory authority Spelinspektionen, which claimed the revenue generated from the gambling industry is 6% lower in March 2020.

The April figures used by Shekarabi in his press conference also showed a significant decline.

The Secretary-General of the Swedish online gaming industry association Branscheforenigen för Onlinespel (BOS), Gustaf Hoffstedt, stated that Shekarabi’s claims led to a disruption in the deposit cap measurement was extended until late 2021.

Hoffstedt said, “The Minister’s statements about the alleged but unfounded increase in online casinos during the pandemic are the main reason why this form of gambling is still subject to very strict temporary restrictions”

“The next step must reasonably be for the government to quickly end these restrictions,” he added. “Ministers must have a basis for their statements, it is not enough to say things just because it fits into the policy you want to pursue.”

As per the reports submitted by the KU, Shekarabi claims are not backed up with viable sources and the resource of data mentioned during the press conference has already been mentioned as misleading.