Sweden’s gaming world entered a new era on January 1st of this year when it, previously being a state monopoly, opened up for other companies to obtain licenses to operate. There have been mixed feelings about this new legislation.
We interviewed Monica Medvall, former Director CSR Strategy and International Relations of Svenska Spel to get her take on Responsible Gaming and Corporate Social Responsibility, particularly as it relates to this market. In the past year she founded Strandänger & Medvall AB, Sustainability and Responsible Gaming, an agency committed to implementing and executing Responsible Gaming and CSR for these new operators. Of the 70 licenses some of the companies has just started up their responsible gaming program.
While RG CSR so important to the Swedish market, many have only taken the initial steps to become compliant with the Swedish gambling law. Why is it important that the Swedish Gambling Authority ensure that the licensed operators actually do what they say they do?
We have an ethical obligation to people and society to create mandates around gaming. I, along with my co-founder, helped develop the CSR department from scratch and we had to make a lot of unpopular decisions along the way to ensure the safety of our players.
What kind of unpopular decisions did you make?
We developed a lot of things- both mandatory and voluntary tools. For instance, we implemented mandatory registration- if you go to a bookmaker, you need to be registered. This was controversial because, with this decision, we lost players and subsequently revenue. We also put forth a mandatory week limit, which also hurt our bottom line, but we knew were for the good of society.
Amongst other decisions that led to Svenska Spel being the top operator for responsible gaming in Sweden and one of the highest in the world. Fortunately, we were always given support by the CEO, Lennart Käll, which allowed us to do our jobs well. He, and the owner the Government, understood that despite losing money, you’ll have a sustainable customer base.
Why have you chosen to leave a great operator that you’ve worked so hard to improve?
It was a hard decision to make. We felt that it was time to leave when you can’t continue to develop. The open market would be an open window for us to help the companies coming in that would need an RG and CSR program. The need is tremendous and the challenge great- this is where we should be.
How would you help these companies become compliant?
As an initial step, we would do a gap analysis to see where they are and where they need to be. With our cumulative years of expertise in this industry, we can then create a proposal for what needs to be done to get there and what steps they would take.
What are some other considerations a company would need to be socially responsible?
The environment and diversity are just a couple, and this certainly doesn’t only apply to gambling operators, it could also be suppliers. You have an obligation to deliver your services in a responsible way. If you are providing a game, for example, that the game should be developed by a person in good labour conditions. Are the materials sustainable? Paper tickets- does the wood come from a forest that is sustainable? The water that’s used in the process – how much water are you using? How are tickets transported?
While it’s a law to follow these regulations, it should also be the priority for the company to be ethical and they should express this to their clients.
We have five focus areas for our Sustainable Development Goals (SDG): People, Planet, Prosperity, Peace and Partnership. It’s imperative that they live up to agenda 2030 by cutting the consumption of carbon emissions, sustainable development is key.
It will be an exciting and challenging year as we see how this unfolds. Other countries are watching Sweden closely to gain insights on whether or not this could be applied in their own country. We congratulate Monica on this new endeavour and wish her the best on this exciting new challenge.