The Norwegian Gambling Authority (NGA) has slapped Kindred Group subsidiary Trannel Int Ltd with a daily fine of €116,676 (NOK1.2m) for offering its services without a licence in the country.
The NGA said Trannel, which is licensed by the Malta Gaming Authority, offers its Unibet, Mariacasino, Storspiller and Bingo brands to customers in Norway, where it does not have permission to operate gambling.
If Kindred does not withdraw its brands from the market, the total value of the daily fines could reach as high as Trannel’s annual gross profit, which the NGA estimates to be around €42.5m.
“When a gambling company that operates illegally in Norway can earn [€42.5m] from its illegal activity in one year, we owe it to the Norwegian people and those who struggle with gambling problems to do what we can to stop the illegal business,” said NGA deputy director Henrik Nordal.
He said surveys in Norway suggest 60% of Norwegians are unaware that Kindred’s brands are unlicensed in the country, and argued that it was possible to lose more money through the operator than with Norway’s licensed monopoly operators, Norsk Rikstoto and Norsk Tipping.
Norway first issued a warning to Kindred that it may start penalising the business in February this year, after initially dishing out an order to prevent Norwegians from accessing its services in 2019.
Kindred Group public affairs manager for Norway Rolf Sims: “In the same way that it is not illegal for Norwegians to shop with eBay or Amazon, it is not illegal for Norwegians to participate in cross-border services, including lawful, regulated entertainment-based gambling.”
Kindred appealed the original order, which was subsequently passed on to Norwegian courts for consideration.
In a comment provided to iGaming NEXT, Kindred Group said: “As with the NGA’s cease and desist order, Trannel fundamentally disagrees with this decision to impose a daily fine upon the company and will therefore appeal the decision on a coercive fine.
“In absence of a transparent and non-discriminatory license process or a monopoly that complies with the requirements as per EEA law, exclusive rights cannot be enforced.”
In June 2022, the Oslo District Court ruled that the NGA’s decision to order Kindred to stop offering its services in Norway was valid.
Kindred’s original objection was based on the fact that it did not consider it illegal for Norwegians to use cross-border services, including for online gambling.
The operator’s public affairs manager for Norway, Rolf Sims, said at the time: “In the same way that it is not illegal for Norwegians to shop with eBay or Amazon, it is not illegal for Norwegians to participate in cross-border services, including lawful, regulated entertainment-based gambling.
“The bigger issue is the flagrant incompatibility of the Norwegian regime with the fundamental principles of and established case law pursuant to EEA law and the legal consequences attached thereto.”
The NGA’s Nordal concluded that: “It is challenging to exercise authority against actors who refuse to comply with Norwegian law.
“The new gambling Act will from 1 January 2023, give us a wider selection of legal tools that we will use to stop the illegal gambling.
“We see good effect from the current payment intermediary ban and the ban on advertising on TV. Now, we are tightening the grip by collecting daily enforcement fines,” he added.
Norway’s new Gambling Act will consolidate its existing Lottery Act, Totalizator Act and the previous Gambling Act, while granting additional regulatory powers to the NGA.
The clampdown on Kindred comes at a time where other monopoly-based European countries such as Finland are exploring a more competitive international licensing model.