Bill Healey

Swedish National Gambling Association

In this issue’s International Roadtrip, we make a stop in Scandinavia for a chat with Jenny Nilzon, CEO of the Swedish National Gambling Association, also known as SPER.

G&L: Could you give us a bit on your background with the gambling industry? What led you into the Swedish Gaming Association?

JN: I am basically a marketer and change leader. I have previously been the CEO of a communications agency and then worked six years at Novamedia, the operator company who runs Sweden’s largest lottery, the Postcode Lottery. There I first worked on establishing a new lottery and TV concept and later become involved in building a public affairs department when the focus on gambling politics needed to be intensified. When SPER was later transformed from an ethical council to a trade organization, I was asked to lead that change. With some knowledge of the gambling industry and as an experienced change leader, it was a perfect match.

G&L: What are your roles and responsibilities within the organization?

JN: We have two permanent positions in the organization. I am the CEO and Maria Wennerberg Sedigh is senior adviser. (Maria Wennerberg Sedigh was part of the gambling investigation that suggested a new Swedish gambling regulation, which the parliament has since voted for). Since we are only two people, we hire experts and consultants and have several working groups consisting of participants from our members. The group’s focus is on gambling responsibility, marketing and compliance.

G&L: When was SPER formed and how has it grown over the years?

JN: SPER was established as an ethical council 15 years ago. Some gambling companies in Sweden agreed to cooperate to jointly interpret the Market Act and start working on self-regulation through common guidelines. The organization was formalized over the years, bringing on board almost all Sweden-controlled gambling companies and national lotteries. Guidelines were gradually developed to include gambling responsibilities. A year ago, the decision to turn SPER into a trade association was made, and that’s when I started. SPER needed to develop the organization to be able to work with even more industry issues other than responsibility and marketing. The reputation of the industry was heading in the wrong direction and is an important area for us to begin tackling together.

Jenny Nilzon, CEO of the Swedish National Gambling Association

G&L: The organization has an “ethical council.” What is the role of the council, and their impact on the future of gaming in Sweden?

JN: We have a body called SEEM that reviews gambling advertising. SEEM can notify advertisements that appear to violate the industry’s rules and practices. It is a function we have created to make demands on ourselves and to be able to monitor to ensure our guidelines are followed.

G&L: How is Sweden’s online gaming market impacted by illegal off-shore companies?

JN: It has been very messy for many years in the Swedish gambling market. The reason is because present legislation has not been adapted to a changing digital world. It will be changed with new legislation that will be in place on Jan. 1, 2019. Over 25 percent of the market consists of gambling companies that do not have Swedish licenses and thus do not pay taxes or comply with Swedish law. Many are regulated in other countries such as Malta, but to get a sustainable and healthy gambling industry, it’s important to provide modern legislation and to channelize operators. Those who do not behave or do not have a license must be excluded. Today, Sweden is out of control with what operators are selling to Swedish consumers. There is an extreme mass of advertising in several channels because of non-functioning legislation. All this affects both consumers and serious gambling companies, and not least the industry’s reputation. The new regulation will help the Swedish government gain control over the whole gambling market through regulation and licensing. This involves taxes, responsible gambling and consumer protection.

G&L: How well is the gambling industry regulated, and are changes expected in the Swedish gambling market?

JN: Not good at all because many operators don’t follow Swedish law. But it will change Jan. 1, when we get new legislation that most gambling companies are satisfied with. It will mean that everyone pays taxes, consumer protection increases and unserious actors must leave the market.

G&L: How active is SPER in driving innovation in responsible gaming?

View from Göta Canal to Stenpiren and Packhusgatan Gothenburg, Sweden Scandinavia

The building exterior and entrance to casino Casino Cosmopol operated by Svenska Spel and located at the address Kungsgatan 65, Stockholm, Sweden

JN: We have worked with self-regulation and moved the limits of what’s okay and not for many years. A lot of our guidelines have been incorporated into the new law. What we are focusing on now is to get the industry to cooperate and solve the problems that exist. The industry has a bad reputation and it is due to many things: a) we are perceived as not giving value for money, b) are not sustainable enough, c) create gambling problems and match fixing are widespread, d) advertisements are bothersome, etc. We must acknowledge our shortcomings and begin to show that we want to do something about it. With a bad reputation, it will be difficult in the future to attract new customers and co-workers.

Gaming & Leisure would like to thank Jenny Nilzon for her insight into the Swedish Gambling industry and the new direction they’re taking.

Based in Bali, Bill Healey has been consulting, installing, and supporting solutions in the global golf and leisure industry since 1982. He has been involved with over 1,000 systems installations in 40+ countries from North America to Africa to Asia and Australia. Contact Bill.