Norway Submits Monopoly-Preserving Regulations

Lofoten islands is an archipelago in the county of Nordland, Norway, known for a distinctive scenery with dramatic mountains and peaks, open sea and sheltered bays, beaches and untouched lands.

Norway has submitted new gambling regulations to the European Commission. The new regulations would protect the current monopoly system for gambling services in the nation.

What was proposed?

The Ministry of Culture in Norway has submitted a new batch of regulations focusing on the gambling industry in their country. These regulations have been put forward to the European Commission, which will review them over the following three months and decide whether or not to approve them.

The Storting, the country’s supreme legislature, is unable to press forward with these new regulations until the review period has concluded on September 5. If there are no revisions proposed by the European Commission and the regulations are approved, they can go forward with them immediately.

These new measures would see a crackdown on unlicensed gambling companies going after customers in Norway. To achieve this, payment transfers relayed to remote gambling would be blocked. These measures would also continue to provide protection for the monopoly that is in place for gambling services.

These new measures were put together by four different groups (members of the Center Party, Socialist Left Party, Christian People’s Party, and the Labor Party) and in April they were submitted to the Storting. The legislature gave its approval at the beginning of May.

If these measures are approved by the European Commission, banks and similar financial institutions would block any and all transactions involving gambling companies which are unauthorized in the state.

Currently, there is a monopoly on this sector in the country, involving the state-run companies Rikstoto and Norsk Tipping. As a result, there is no process whereby a foreign betting operator could get a license and act as a regulated member of the market.

These measures are certainly wide-ranging and the Norwegian Gaming Authority (NGA) will be handed a lot of extra responsibilities and power. They ultimately have the final decision as to what transactions can be blocked when they concern gambling companies.

The banks and other institutions will be required to submit to any inquiries the NGA has about certain customers’ regulator details if there is a concern that they are engaged in unlicensed gambling. This would include obtaining account numbers and similar information about various customers.

A similar blocking law is already in place, but these new regulations would be much more comprehensive.

For instance, DNS blocking would be brought in to stop citizens from accessing websites operated abroad and the Gaming Authority has the right to see banks’ annual reports to look for any suspicious transactions.

Are there privacy concerns?

This hard-headed stance on protecting the gambling monopoly in Norway has met some resistance in the past.

Early in 2018, the NGA received a lot of criticism from the European Gaming and Betting Association (EGBA) because it was alleged to have broken privacy rules by accessing confidential information about citizens of Norway who were suspected of engaging in gambling on unlicensed platforms.

Especially in this day and age, people are massively concerned with the privacy of their data, so this issue is taken very seriously by the powers-that-be in Europe.

In January 2018, the Brussels-based group expressed its concerns to the Data Protection Authority in Norway. It was believed that there was a serious breach of privacy of residents in the country and that national data protection laws had been broken.

In 2010, the Norwegian Payment Blocking Regulation was first introduced, which brought in the ability to block transactions involving unlicensed gambling operators in Norway.

The main issue revolved around a case from March 2017 in which domestic banks were given orders to stop transactions to seven different account numbers that were suspected of engaging in illegal gambling activity.

The EGBA believed that the regulator could have got this information only by accessing a database that stores sensitive data on citizens of Norway. Under the country’s data protection laws, the gambling regulator is not allowed to access this database.

The Norwegian authorities believe that these types of measures protect their residents from being victims of predatory gambling companies. They also believe that gambling-related funding is very beneficial to Norwegian sport and other causes.

The secretary-general of the EGBA, Maarten Haijer, responded to this by saying that this explanation does not match the current reality: “Rather than focusing on keeping the monopoly model in place with increasingly repressive but ineffective enforcement measures, the regulation should focus on the actual needs of Norwegian consumers and provide a safe and competitive offer which enables consumers to play online in a secure and highly regulated environment based on Norwegian law.”