Norway’s new regulator preps for war v. online gambling sites


norway-gambling-regulatory-chiefNorway has appointed a new gaming regulatory chief, just as the country prepares to go to war with unauthorized online gambling sites.

Last week, the Lotteri-og Stiftelsestilsynet (Norwegian Gaming Authority) appointed Gunn Merete Paulsen as its new general director. Paulsen (pictured) was an eight-year NGA veteran before leaving in 2015, but has now returned to replace Atle Hamar, who left to head up the Ministry of Climate and the Environment.

Paulsen has a law degree, which will probably help her through what promises to be a legally challenging period in the Norwegian online gambling market’s evolution. The government is seeking new power to force local financial institutions to block payments to internationally licensed gambling sites that compete with the Norsk Tipping and Norsk Rikstoto state-owned monopolies.

Earlier this month, Norway’s government submitted the text (in Norwegian) of its “regulations concerning the prohibition of the processing of payments for gambling without a Norwegian license” to the European Commission for approval. The EC’s mandatory standstill period extends to September 5, and Norway hopes to impose the new rules by January 1, 2019.

Norwegian banks are already prohibited from directly processing payments on behalf of international gambling sites but the new rules make it clear that they are also forbidden from handling “payment transactions to and from companies that carry out payment transactions on behalf of gambling companies.”

In April 2017, the NGA flagged seven companies it accused of processing over $256m worth of online gambling payments for international operators in a single year. In December, the NGA found that at least two of these companies – Trustly and Entercash – had managed to continue their Norwegian operations simply by changing their account numbers.

As a result, the NGA wants the authority to compel banks to block transactions by the name of the company, rather than be forced to file new blocking demands every time a processor changes account numbers.

The NGA also wants the authority to compel banks to turn over data on suspicious transactions, something the NGA claims is necessary if it is to truly understand the scope of the problem. The NGA pinky-swears that it won’t go all Wikileaks with sensitive customer data and that none of its proposals will result in the banks incurring any significant costs.

Norway previously announced plans to restrict unauthorized gambling operators from advertising to local punters, while opposition politicians approved a measure last month that will force the government to impose domain name service (DNS) blocking of unauthorized gambling sites. Typically, the NGA claims all this is necessary due to “public health” concerns and not simply a way of boosting government revenue by forcing traffic to its gambling monopolies.