Norway’s Ministry of Culture has introduced a new Gambling Law that places stricter limitations on unlicensed overseas betting organisations and their affiliates operating in the country.
The new bill, proposed by the government on June 18 and dubbed a “milestone” by Abid Raja, Norway’s Minister of Culture and Gender Equality, intends to bring the country’s disparate gambling systems together. Its goal is to “regulate everything that is offered by gambling in Norway” and to replace the current three laws.
New legislative and regulatory framework
The 1995 Lottery Act, 1992 Gambling Act, and 1927 Totalisator Act have previously controlled Norway’s regulated betting business, which the new act intends to consolidate into a new legislative and regulatory framework.
In June 2020, Raja suggested to Norway’s Stortinget parliamentary assembly that the country’s gambling legislation be overhauled, with the goal of consolidating government management of the regulated betting and gaming industry.
The minister’s new regulations will strengthen the existing rights model, under which the state lottery Norsk Tipping and racing betting operator Norsk Rikstoto have exclusive rights to offer high-risk, high-turnover gambling products to Norwegians, while reiterating that unlicensed firms will not be allowed to operate.
When it was first debated last year, a second major goal of the updated legislation was to improve inefficiencies in the governance of Norway’s incumbent monopolies, which are controlled by the Lottery Committee, Ministry of Culture, and Ministry of Agriculture and Food.
Ensuring responsible gambling
“I am pleased to finally be able to present the new gambling law, which is a milestone in the government’s work to prevent gambling problems and ensure responsible gambling,” Raja remarked.
“We are tired of foreign gambling companies that do not respect Norwegian law, and that do not operate with proper accountability measures. Therefore, the new law provides the Norwegian Lotteries Authority with new tools for detecting, reacting to and sanctioning violations of the law. This includes, among other things, authority to impose infringement fines.”
Strong social responsibility and safe betting rules are included in the new law, with any corporation offering gambling in Norway being forced to establish “the necessary accountability measures,” as well as a general ban on credit games to combat debt problems.
Additionally, a provision that classifies gambling advertising to juveniles as a criminal offence has been enacted, requiring operators to ‘not go beyond what is necessary to attract players to the legal gaming offers’.
Finally, direct marketing of gambling to “people who have reserved themselves against this with the gambling provider,” i.e. “people who have self-excluded themselves from any betting and gaming products or offers,” has been designated as a criminal conduct.
Targeted and successful policy in the area
Raja concluded: “Things are happening in the gambling field in Norway. The government has worked consciously for many years with gambling policy and this is yielding results.
“Foreign gambling companies and their payment intermediaries are withdrawing from the Norwegian market, their turnover is declining and advertising is no longer as easy to reach. This is a direct result of a targeted and successful policy in the area.”
The proposed amendments will see the Norwegian government maintain its “zero tolerance” policy to unlawful gambling, ensuring the state-owned monopolies Norsk Tipping and Norsk Rikstoto are protected.
Director General Gunn Merete Paulsen granted expanded regulatory powers to combat unlicensed gaming activities in 2018, and Storting parties formed a coalition to push for the overhaul of gambling regulator Lottstift by Director General Gunn Merete Paulsen.
International unlicensed operators
Following media revelations that Norway’s Sovereign Wealth Fund has invested in international unlicensed operators, MPs asked that the country’s gambling regulations be changed.
Lottstift’s regulation strategy has been criticised for failing to give any monitoring on problem gambling concerns and consumer safety of players who continue deal with unlicensed actors, despite taking the harshest stance against them.
Furthermore, while the proposed legal measures confirm the position of Tipping and Rikstoto, some, including the European Gaming and Betting Association, have criticised the presence of a Norwegian gambling monopoly.
According to Maarten Haijer, the EGBA Secretary General, up to 66 percent of online gambling transactions in Norway are conducted on international websites, costing the country roughly NOK 2 billion each year.
He went on to outline a ‘fallacy’ in Norway’s gaming infrastructure, pointing out that having a monopoly does not mean players are better protected if international operators are not properly regulated.