igamingnext photo
The European Gaming and Betting Association (EGBA) has published a statement encouraging Norway to transition away from its monopoly gambling market to a licensing model.

Norway remains the only country in mainland Europe to hold a monopoly on the gambling sector, through state-owned operators Norsk Tipping and Norsk Rikstoto.

However, customers in Norway are still able to access non-locally licensed operators which hold licences from international regulators, such as the Malta Gaming Authority (MGA).

Changes incoming

In April this year, it was revealed that from 2024, Norway intends to introduce DNS website blocking for operators who do not hold a local licence in the country.

Several proposals to force internet service providers to block gambling websites had previously been submitted to Norway’s legislature, but none had been approved by the country’s lawmakers.

Business magazine E24 reported at the time that changes were likely to come in from January 2024, demonstrating that sentiment among Norwegian politicians had turned in favour of maintaining the monopoly.

EGBA calls for licensing model

In its statement, the EGBA called upon Norway to introduce a licensing system to help bring its gambling sector in line with peers across Europe.

“In Norway, there is a clear demand for alternatives to the current gambling monopoly, as evidenced by the determination of players to actively seek out and access international websites which offer them greater choice,” said the trade association’s secretary general Maarten Haijer. 

“It is crucial for the government to recognise and respond to this demand.”

Haijer added that Norway’s belief in the monopoly model as the best way of ensuring safer gambling is out of step with governments across the rest of Europe, whose regulatory regimes provide clear rules for companies to follow and successfully prioritise player safety.

“Introducing a licensing system would address the demand for alternative gambling options, increase tax revenue, and enhance safer gambling measures by regulating more operators within the country,” he continued.

Haijer also pointed to Norway’s neighbour Sweden, which has transitioned away from a monopoly model towards a licensing system in recent years. Finland too has committed to make the switch by 2026.

“It is essential for the authorities to evaluate whether [the monopoly] approach remains relevant in the modern digital age and in comparison to the practices adopted by other European countries,” he suggested.

“We strongly urge the Norwegian authorities to consider the advantages of a licensing model, which can effectively meet the evolving needs of its players and foster a more comprehensive approach to gambling regulation that prioritises player safety,” Haijer concluded.

Operator exodus?

On 14 September, Norwegian regulator Lottstift (NGA) issued a statement suggesting several major operators were set to withdraw from the market.

Companies behind major brands including Unibet, Betsson, ComeOn and bet365 were said to be “in the process of withdrawing from the Norwegian market” after the regulator “carried out inspections against them.”

The regulator intends to follow up on several other unlicensed operators currently available in Norway, it said, “unless they inform us that they want to withdraw” from the market.

“Companies that do not withdraw from the Norwegian market risk having their websites blocked next year, when we get new regulations in place,” it added.

However, when asked for comment on the matter, a spokesperson for Unibet operator Kindred Group said the following:

“Kindred Group is of the opinion that we have never been on the Norwegian market, but offer gambling as a service on the international entertainment market pursuant to a licence from Malta.

“Norwegian residents have legally and at their own free will chosen to participate in our offers.       

“It is totally legal for Norwegian residents to play with overseas gambling companies and they are not breaking any Norwegian laws, something both the NGA and Ministry of Culture have expressed both in public statements and consultations.”

In June, Kindred lost a legal appeal against the NGA, which had ordered it to cease making its services available to customers in Norway.