Norway Online Gambling Laws
The online gambling situation in Norway appears much worse on paper than it is in reality. If you simply read the laws that are on the books, things look dire for Norwegian gamblers. There are two licensed betting sites in Norway and both feature poor odds, poor game selection, and are limited in overall functionality.
In reality, it's not all that bad. Let's start with what the law says. After that, we'll talk about what online gambling is really like in Norway today.
The Current Legal Situation
Norway has some of the strictest anti-gambling laws in all of Europe. And more, Norway isn't a member of the EU and is therefore not subject to the same pressure that its neighbors in Finland and Sweden are to loosen its grip on the state-controlled monopoly.
The only two legal betting sites in Norway today are:
- Norsk Riskoto for horse racing.
- Norsk Tipping for lotteries, sports betting, poker, keno, and scratch card games.
To talk about the current legal situation, we first need to take a step back into time. Over the past century, most forms of gambling have been considered illegal in Norway. The games that aren't outlawed are heavily regulated by the state and may only be offered by state-owned monopolies.
The Totalisator Act of 1927 first established legal horse racing betting in Norway. The act gave Norsk Riskoto the sole power to conduct horse wagering across the country. Norsk Riskoto exists to this day in both offline and online forms. This is the only officially legal place to bet on horses over the internet in Norway.
The 1992 Gaming Act gave Norsk Tipping monopoly control over Norway's lottery, sports betting, and other games. Later, Norwegian lawmakers granted Norsk Tipping the authority to host online poker for residents of the country.
In 2008, Norway made it illegal for individuals to play at foreign gambling sites. This caused a great deal of concern, but we have since seen that law isn't being enforced. Many people from Norway play at unlicensed foreign sites every day without any issues. It's similar to what we see in other countries where there are laws on the books against playing, but they aren't enforced.
That history all leads up to the current situation in Norway. If you want to be strictly compliant with the law, you can play at Norsk Tipping for poker and sports betting or Norsk Riskoto for pari-mutuel wagering. That's it. Playing anywhere else is illegal.
What It's Really Like in Norway
The reality of the legal situation isn't nearly as dire in Norway as Norsk Riskoto and Tipping would have you believe. The fact of the matter is people are still playing at "offshore" gaming sites all the time in Norway, and business is as good as ever. Hundreds of gaming sites around the world accept Norwegians. Some even process transactions in Norwegian Krones and present the games in Bokmål and Nynorsk.
Quite a few respected offshore bookmakers, poker sites, and casinos still accept Norwegian customers today. Lawmakers may call them "illegal" operations, but they actually function in full accordance with the laws where they are headquartered.
Yes, it's technically illegal to place bets at any unlicensed site but it's more of a threat than an actual enforced law. The biggest issue you're likely to face when doing business with an unlicensed site is a declined credit card deposit thanks to the Payment Act of Norway passed in 2010.
The Payment Act was Norway's version of the USA's Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA). Like the UIGEA, the Payment Act attempts to stifle online gambling in Norway by instructing banks and payment processors not to conduct business with offshore gaming companies. The legislation doesn't target individual gamblers; it strictly addresses the banking industry in Norway.
That's where things stand now in Norway. The law says one thing; the people do another. Lawmakers have hinted that one day they may be open to opening the market to competition and allowing foreign operators to offer games and pay taxes in Norway. Many favor going this direction since online gambling is already widespread among Norwegians. They might as well legalize it, put protections in place, and bring in the additional tax revenue.
Author: Wesley Burns
Updated: March 2015