Norway-facing online gambling operators form new lobby group


norway-online-gambling-industry-associationNorway-facing online gambling operators have formed a new industry association to press the government to rethink its restrictive gambling policy.

This month, European online gambling operators Betsson, Cherry AB’s ComeOn brand, Gaming Innovation Group (GiG) and the Kindred Group announced the formation of the Norwegian Industry Association for Online Gambling (NBO).

The new association will urge Norway’s government to abandon its monopolistic stance – which limits local punters to the state-run Norsk Rikstoto (race betting) and Norsk Tipping (sports betting and casino games) – in favor of a liberalized regime that would allow internationally licensed online gambling operators to apply for local licenses.

The NBO, which hopes to enlist other European Union and European Economic Area operators, has named Carl Fredrik Stenstrøm, Rikstoto former commercial director, as its secretary-general. The NBO will be chaired by Kindred’s public affairs manager Rolf Sims, a former Ministry of Culture veteran who helped craft Norway’s gambling policy.

Stenstrøm noted that he helped lead Rikstoto’s responsible gambling initiatives and his experience taught him that such efforts aren’t much use if they ignore the vast segment of the market over which the government has no control.

Stenstrøm said the regulatory regimes in Denmark and (as of January 1) Sweden recognize that regulating “all the serious companies under one, responsible license model” is the proper way to go.

Last August, the four founding NBO operators issued a report that claimed a more open online gambling licensing system would offer better value for customers, greater control over problem gambling and increased regulatory oversight. The report was immediately dismissed as a “side-track” by Henrik Nordal, deputy director-general of the Norwegian Gaming Authority (NGA).

Norway has shown little interest in changing its online gambling approach, and has attempted to limit local punters’ access to international gambling sites by blocking unauthorized domains, restricting payment processing channels and prohibiting advertising.

Last December, Kindred’s Norwegian subsidiary Trannel International sued the NGA and Norway’s Ministry of Culture for unfair restriction of trade, including the aforementioned payment blocking and for convincing Apple to purge Kindred’s betting app (and those of many other firms) from the Norwegian App Store.