Major Online Gambling Operators Form a Group to Press the Restrictive Norwegian Gambling Policy

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Staff member
May 3, 2008
In a sign of protest against the monopolistic stance towards gambling in Norway, major European online gambling operators have founded a group with the aim to press the government to reassess the restrictive gambling policy.

Cherry AB, Betsson, Kindred Group and Gaming Innovation Group have announced the formation of the Norwegian Industry Association for Online Gambling (NBO).

The Main Goal of NBO

NBO, which is short for Norwegian Industry Association for Online Gambling, was formed with the goal of urging Norwegian government to reconsider its monopolistic stance which limits local gamblers to put bets only to the state-run Norsk Tipping, an operator licensed for sports betting and casino games and Norsk Rikstoto, licensed for race betting. It aims to bring this monopoly in Norway in line with EU regulations and will lobby for an open regime for licensing in the market.

NBO’s aim is to convince the government that a more liberalized regime should be implemented, allowing internationally licensed and respected online gambling operators to apply for a license to operate in Norway.

The four founding NBO operators gave the Norwegian government a proposal which claimed a more open and liberalized online gambling licensing system would increase regulatory oversight, be of better value for customers and will give the government greater control over problem gambling.

The Members of NBO

NBO hopes to gather more members and enlist other European Economic Area and European Union operators, but for now, it will be chaired by Rolf Sims, Kindred’s Public Affairs Manager and former Ministry of Culture veteran. Cheery AB’s brand ComeOn, Betsson, and Gaming Innovation Group (GIG) are amongst the four founders, but what’s interesting is that Carl Fredrik Stenstrøm, who was Rikstoto’s Commercial Director for 18 years, will be the Secretary-General in the Norwegian Industry Association for Online Gambling.

Stenstrøm actually noted that he was one of those who helped Rikstoto in the responsible gambling initiatives and strengthened its responsibility programme, and that experience has taught him a lot. He claims that such efforts are not enough if the government ignores the huge segment of the online market over which the government itself has little or no control whatsoever. The policy must take technological development into account, he said.

Moreover, Stenstrøm gave Denmark and Sweden’s regulatory regimes as an example of what the proper way to go is. These two countries regulate all serious gambling companies under one responsible license model. Stenstrøm said that trying to ignore half of the potential market and leave it out of the picture is against customer’s will.

The splash of announcing Stenstrøm for the Secretary-General has drawn heavy criticism in Norway, mainly by Rikstoto’s CEO, Harald Dørum. Dørum said about his former colleague that Stenstrøm has been amongst the promoters for the exclusive rights, the monopolistic model for the past 18 years, and now with this move, he has skipped the fence.

Norway’s Response to the Proposed Regulatory Changes

After reviewing the NBO’s proposal, Henrik Nordal, the Norwegian Gaming Authority’s Deputy Director-General immediately dismissed it, saying it was a side-track.

The government has never shown an interest in changing the years-long online gambling control approach and has even made rigorous moves to keep it as it is. In fact, Norway has been limiting local gambler’s access to international online gambling sites for some time, by prohibiting advertising, restricting payment processing channels and blocking their access to unauthorized domains.

International revolt peaked with Kindred's lawsuit for unfair restriction of trade against the Norwegian Gaming Authority and Norway's Ministry of Culture. In fact, its subsidiary Trannel International sued the Norwegian authorities after they convinced Apple to remove Kindred’s betting app from the App Store and blocked Kindred’s payments. Kindred was not the only operator affected with the app removal, nor the payment blocking.

The Current Gambling Licensing Regime in Norway

Ironically enough, Norwegian players are allowed to gamble online, but only within the two sites of the state-run gambling companies, Rikstoto and Norsk Tipping. Even though many international and multi-licensed operators have been trying to get a license in Norway for years, the government has been pushing them out.

However, Norwegian players have been finding ways to access international online gambling sites, so basically, Norway had little to no control over these gamblers. For the purpose of limiting them to play only on the two local sites, Norway has blocked their access to unauthorized domains and blocked the payment systems and apps of these international gambling operators. This was seen as unjust by many, especially by Kindred Group, which eventually filed a suit.

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