Back in May, the Norwegian Ministry of Culture demanded that the country’s banks stop accepting payments to foreign gambling companies. Almost immediately afterward, members of Norway’s online gambling industry began pushing against these new regulations. Unfortunately, the government has won its first court battle to keep these payments illegal.
It’s disappointing news for gamblers in Norway. Despite having a huge number of gambling fans here, the government seems determined to limit the gaming industry. Let’s look at what to expect in the future.
Norway is well-known for having one of the most restrictive gambling industries in Europe. The government has granted two companies a monopoly to offer all forms of online gambling. Since 2008, gambling online through foreign websites has been illegal.
As you might expect, many individuals here continue to make bets online through other European gambling sites operating in the country. The government finally began cracking down on this in May. That month, lawmakers ordered all banks to stop accepting payments to these foreign gambling companies.
Trine Skei Grande, Norway’s Minister of Culture and Gender Equality, states that these new laws will help to curb the illegal gambling that takes place throughout the country.
“The changes will help make it less attractive to play on foreign gaming sites without Norwegian permission. The unregulated players offer games with a higher risk of gambling addiction and are not subject to the same accountability measures as the gaming offer of Norsk Tipping and Norsk Rikstoto,” she said.
Gambling advocates in Europe immediately began fighting against these changes in court. Unfortunately, the court is siding with the Norwegian government.
Gambling fans have awaited the court’s decision on this matter. It has limited individuals in this country to gamble through the state-run websites, which many complain offer worse odds and promotions than most European gaming websites. It’s now been confirmed that the Oslo District Court has ruled that the government’s ban on payments to foreign gambling sites is acceptable.
The courts have determined that this payment ban does not violate European Union laws. They claim that EU member states such as Norway have the right to apply national laws that “may affect the functioning of the common market.” The European Gaming and Betting Association (EGBA) disagrees.
This pro-gambling group states that the ban does, in fact, violate the EU Payment Services Directive. They also feel that Norway’s government lacks the legal authority to ban payments to gambling companies based overseas.
Fortunately, the court’s decision doesn’t mean that Norway’s online gambling industry is completely dead.
A second hearing will take place in the near future. During this time, the courts will decide on whether or not the gambling payment ban is consistent with rules governing the free movement of services within the European Economic Area. EGBA secretary general Maarten Haijer is certainly confident that the group’s claims will be heard.
“In today’s digital age it is virtually impossible to enforce national borders on the internet but that’s what the Norwegian authorities are trying to do by introducing payment blockings for online betting,” he said.
Most gamblers in Norway hope that the courts will come to a different conclusion during the next hearing. As of now, the bank’s ban on processing payments to foreign gambling websites remains in place. This doesn’t make it impossible to gamble illegally here, though.
There are still several ways for gamblers in this country to access and place bets through these foreign websites. E-wallets are one of the easiest options, as they are not connected to the country’s banks. Some also choose to place bets using Bitcoin.
The government should recognize this fact and work towards regulation of Norway’s online gambling industry. Sweden recently opened its internet gambling market and is experiencing massive revenue gains as a result. By attempting to shut down Norway’s online gambling industry, the government is only making illegal gambling more popular.
As we mentioned earlier, the next court hearing has not yet been scheduled. Most expect it to take place within the next couple of months. We’ll need to wait and see how successful the EGBA is at convincing court officials that blocking these payments is ineffective and unlawful.
Do you think Norway’s online gambling industry should be open to foreign companies? What will the court decide at the next hearing? Let us know in the comments section below!
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