Sweden's Svenska Spel is looking to raise the bar on responsible gambling by increasing the national minimum age for lottery ticket sales in Sweden to 18 years, as well as increasing its investment in problem gambling support.
Coming into effect in 2010, the new age limit for lottery tickets means that all of Svenska Spel's products across all sales channels will have a minimum age limit of at least eighteen years old.
"Corporate social responsibility is an important cornerstone of Svenska Spel’s business," said Meta Persdotter, CEO of Svenska Spel. "Our ambition is to minimise underage gambling wherever it may occur. To do so we must also be clear and consistent in our view of gaming and age limits, particularly towards our business partners and customers."
Svenska Spel currently has a minimum age limit of 18 years for Oddset games as well as SvenskaSpel.se and Vegas gaming machines, while players at Casino Cosmopol must be a minimum of 20 years old.
The company said that the minimum age limit would make both handling and age verification in retail outlets much easier.
"For some time, we have conducted a dialogue with representatives of the service and convenience goods trade, and this decision is in line with the industry’s own demands for a uniform age limit and that the handling of games and lotteries follow the rules that apply for other goods with age limits," said Håkan Sjöstrand, Business Area Manager at Svenska Spel.
Sjöstrand said that the decision would also offer possibilities for additional associations to sell lottery tickets, with the company investing more resources on the development of subscription and Internet partner services, as well as the sale of game and lottery tickets.
"Associations and clubs that can handle the age check of games and lotteries in accordance with current rules can continue to sell our products," confirmed Sjöstrand.
Svenska Spel currently has approximately 6,800 representatives selling Svenska Spel’s lottery tickets, as well as cooperation agreements with approximately 3,000 associations in Sweden selling Triss lottery tickets, amongst others.
"This decision is positive for two reasons – on one hand, shop employees need not think about different age limits for different products, and on the other, it signals a shared view that all gambling can potentially lead to problems and that there should therefore also be an age limit on lottery tickets," said Bengt Hedlund, President of the trade association, Svensk Servicehandel & Fast Food.
The company has also pledged to invest SEK3 million in order to ensure the continuation of support for problem gamblers.
The investment will mean that two programs in the country, a 24 hour gambling helpline and an internet based self help program, will continue to support problem gamblers in 2010.
The company said however that as a gaming operator, it was not its task to directly finance the treatment of people with gambling problems and urged the government to make a clear distinction between the preventative measures which fall under the remit of gaming operators and the treatment of problem gamblers by the authorities.
"It feels good to be able to save two well functioning projects under a transition period until the authorities have decided who should fund them," said Margareta Winberg, Chair of Svenska Spel.
"Today it is not our task to finance the treatment of people with gambling problems, but on the other hand, we must prioritise the consideration of social protection."
Ms. Winberg said there was need for a clear demarcation between what is preventive measures and what is care and treatment of gambling addiction, and where the responsibility lies between different authorities versus Svenska Spel as a gambling company.