Norwegian Gaming Authority Restricts Online Gambling Sites
Online gambling regulators in Norway and Denmark each moved recently to limit online gambing, though their methods were quite different. Norway’s government imposed stricter monitoring of payment process for online gambling sites.
The Norwegian Gaming Authority (Lotteri-og Stiftelsesilsynet) proposed to lawmakers a set of 8 policies which would further restrictions for foreign operators to Norwegian gamblers. The NGA wants local financial institutions to block transactions involving unauthorized online gambling operators.
CalvinAyre.com suggested that the move is to restrict competition for Norsk Tipping and Norsk Rikstoto, the state-owned gambling monopolies. Previously, the NGA had asked Norwegian banks to stop certain accounts from processing online gambling payments. Some Norway residents simply changed their accounts, requiring regulators to make changes in enforcement.
Norwegian Gaming Authority’s New Powers
The Gaming Authority now wants the ability to order banks to stop dealing with specific companies altogether. That would allow it to restrict unauthorized payment processors, or processors which authorize Norwegian players to process payments from unlicensed gaming websites.
The NGA’s requests go further. The gaming regulator wants the authority to compel Norwegian banks to provide transaction information regarding certain companies “on demand”. The NGA offered assurances the individual customers’ data privacy would be respected, though it is unknown how the NGA would implement such policiies. If the new policies were passed, the Norwegian Gaming Authority wants to put the policies in place by January 1, 2019.
Opposition Support for NGA
A coalition of Norway’s opposition parties appear to be championing the Norwegian Gaming Authority’s proposals. Politicians from opposition groups were able to cobble together enough votes to pass 6 of the 8 policy proposals out of committee. On May 8, a floor vote occurs which would pass those measures. Given the opposition parties were able to convince enough majority members to vote on the proposals in committee, the measures could pass into law in May.
The opposition lawmakers wanted to see Norway’s pension fund divest itself of the $3.3 billion in investments in online gambling and land-based gambling operators. The fund mainly is invested in the oil industry, but the massive decline in oil prices over the past 5 years led to considerable volatility in the pension fund.
The gaming companies listed in the fund include online gaming operators like Sweden’s Cherry/Betsson/NetEnt, 888 Holdings, Paddy Power-Betfair, William Hill, Playtech, The Stars Group (PokerStars), and Microgaming. It also includes brick-and-mortar casino operators like Sheldon Adelson’s Las Vegas Sands, Lawrence Ho’s Melco Resorts & Entertainment, and Stanley Ho’s SJM Holdings.
Trine Skei Grande’s Pilot Program
At the same time, lawmakers blocked a proposal by Norwegian Minister of Culture Trine Skei Grande‘s efforts to loosen Norsk Tipping’s gaming monopoly by instituting policies that would have licensed more international gaming operators. Skei Grande called for a pilot program to bring more operators into Norway, a move she championed as a way to introduce competition and thus better gaming terms for Norwegian gamblers. The Culture Minister’s proposals failed to gain support.
Trine Skei Grande did get some concessions. Norsk Tripping is going to have its marketing activities curtailed somewhat, to assure the gaming monopoly does not engage in predatory behavior. Some have noted that Norsk Tipping had a record year of revenues in 2017, with an 8.2% increase in revenues year-to-year up to $665 million in US dollars.
DNS Blocking But Not IP Blocking
The NGA’s proposals set for passage include the ability to impose DNS blocking of international gaming sites that do not have local authorization. The NGA wanted a more punitive IP-blocking measure, but the coalition of lawmakers decided the DNS blocking was a better option. Under the DNS proposal, Norwegian punters would be warned that they were entering an unlicensed online gambling site, but they could proceed to the site if they chose.
While the proposals appear to be a big loss for international online gaming operators in Norway, majority politicians mitigated the effects of the proposals by limiting Norsk Tipping’s advertisements. Also, Norwegian players could gamble on international sites if they choose, though they will have to find inventive ways to pay for such gaming and they’ll see public service announcements which tell them they are gaming at unlicensed sites.
That might be enough to scare away some players. Having no way to pay for online gambling is a much more imposing obstacle, though Norwegian gamblers likely will find a work-around for those issues, as American and Russian players have over the years. The 5Dimes flap over gift cards comes to mind. Norway’s leaders could have gone further, but if they totally restricted international online play while allowing Norwegian companies to operate, it could violate EU commerce laws.