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EGBA: Norway’s online gambling fight violated data protection law

TAGs: european gaming and betting association (egba), Norway, Norwegian Gaming Authority

norway-online-gambling-data-protectionEurope’s online gambling industry trade group is challenging Norway’s efforts to block payments between gamblers and internationally licensed gambling sites.

On Thursday, the European Gaming and Betting Association (EGBA) announced that it had asked the Norwegian Data Protection Inspectorate (DPI) to investigate efforts by the Norwegian Gaming Authority (NGA) to prevent local gamblers from funding their online activity.

The Norwegian Payment Act formally banned unauthorized online gambling transactions in 2010, but it wasn’t until last May that the NGA ordered Norwegian banks to stop processing transactions with seven companies deemed to be facilitating online gambling transactions. In December, the NGA accused two of these companies of subverting the ban by altering their registration info.

The EGBA claims the NGA violated Norway’s privacy protection rules in order to obtain the account info that led them to the offending payment processors. The EGBA alleges that the NGA effectively hoovered up vast amounts of its citizens’ online data – including from individuals with no connection to gambling whatsoever – in order to glean the compromising payment info it was seeking.

EGBA secretary general Maarten Haijer said his group suspected the NGA of making “a clear breach of data protection rules” by illegally accessing the Foreign Exchange Register database. The EGBA urged the DPI to “investigate and take appropriate action if necessary.”

Haijer noted that internationally licensed gambling operators were required to observe strict data protection rules, and “the law requires the same from public authorities like the NGA.”

Norway would prefer that its online gamblers patronize only the Norsk Tipping and Norsk Rikstoto state-owned monopolies. In addition to cutting off the flow of cash, the government is crafting new rules to clamp down on international operators’ ability to advertise their wares to Norwegian punters. These advertising rules are expected to be ready by the summer.

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