Gambling Monopoly in Norway Questioned

The gambling monopoly in Norway that is currently held by Norsk Tipping has been called into question by Norsk Bransjeforening for Onlinespill (NBO). The industry trade association that is predominantly concerned with online gambling has presented a case to the authorities that the gambling monopoly should be stripped after a rise in the incidence of gambling addiction in the country.

A row of houses new to the water in Norway.

The policy to only allow one operator to offer online gambling services in Norway has been scrutinized for some time. The recent discovery that problem gambling rates are on the rise has re-ignited calls for the monopoly system to be scrapped. ©adriandegonda/pixabay

The data that the NBO has cited in its argument came from a study that was commissioned by Lotteri-og Stiftelsestilsynet and performed by the University of Bergen. Data was collected from over 9,000 participants aged from 16 to 74 located all across the country.

The University of Bergen ultimately concluded that some 55,000 people in Norway are currently suffering from gambling problems to some degree. This figure represents a rise of 21,000 people compared to the figure estimated from a similar study that was performed in 2015.

In addition to the 55,000 people with ongoing problems, the study also concluded that a further 122,000 people are at risk of developing such problems in the future.

The secretary-general of the NBO released a statement on the findings of the study shortly after its release. In this, Carl Fredrik Stenstrøm voiced the deep concern that the association is feeling with regard to the gambling addiction rates in Norway. The Stenstrøm also emphasized the association’s belief that the best way to rectify this issue is to scrap the monopoly model in Norway.

Stenstrøm spoke of the growth that the Norwegian gambling market has seen over recent years and particularly in reference to the online market, which has been the driving force for growth. In regard to this, the secretary-general of the NBO stated “the exclusive rights model is out-dated”.

The reason for this is that, according to the NBO, around 50% of online gamblers will use international websites. By maintaining the monopoly system that is currently in place, the Norwegian authorities have left themselves with few options to tackle these issues. According to the NBO, the authorities should now focus on regulating the entire market.

The NBO believes in stripping the monopoly rights from Norsk Tipping and modifying the legislation in such a way that more operators would be free to offer their services in the country. According to the NBO, this would channel more players into legal gambling streams and away from unlicensed offerings.

Stenstrøm pointed to the Swedish online gambling market, which was regulated and opened at the beginning of 2019. In the Swedish system, licensed operators are expected to comply with a strict set of rules that are designed to ensure a commitment to safeguard players and control dangerous gambling habits.

The NBO is in support of such a model in favor of a gambling monopoly. Stenstrøm pointed to policies like the implementation of a self-exclusion scheme in Sweden that he believes would be beneficial in Norway.

The laws in Sweden are no stranger to criticism, however, with many claiming that the regulations being implemented are too strict and that punishments for transgressions are too harsh on regulators. It is often suggested that these strict regulations push more players towards the black market, and are, therefore, counterproductive.

Stenstrøm supports the licensing of more operators in Norway, as well as similar licensing terms to those used in Sweden to help reduce problem gambling in the country.

New Gambling Advertising Rules in Norway

Another development relevant to the gambling industry in Norway is the recent decision made by the Norwegian parliament to introduce a law aimed at limiting advertising for offshore companies. The amendment to advertising regulations will prevent foreign operators from aiming ads at Norwegian consumers via the internet.

The new legislation will deliver more power to the Norwegian Media Authority, which will give it the option to order internet service providers to block those that are responsible for this illegal marketing activity.

The Minister of Culture in Norway, Abid Q. Raja, spoke on the new legislation shortly after it was approved. Raja is hopeful that this legislation will reduce the scope and intensity of online gambling advertising and, as such, the prevalence of problem gambling in Norway could be reduced.

This legislation has followed an announcement that was made earlier in May, in which approval was given for the Media Authority to have the power to stop domestic broadcasters from playing adverts from foreign operators.

The implementation of this legislation represents a big step in the direction that the Norwegian government is taking towards removing foreign influence from the gambling market. There have been regulations in the country that prevent games and services that aren’t licensed in Norway from being advertised there, but operators have been quick to find loopholes.

One such loophole was to advertise products on satellite channels that were broadcast into Norway from abroad. The government feels that this new legislation may prove useful to close these loopholes and to prevent operators from exploiting them.

The Minister of Culture said in his statement that the use of both these amendments in conjunction could prove a useful tool to act on the findings of the study performed at the University of Bergen.

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