Norway to unify gambling laws, beef up enforcement tools


Norway’s government is proposing to streamline the country’s gambling laws while sending a message that the future of the two state-run gambling monopolies is not up for debate.

On Monday, Norway’s Ministry of Culture submitted a proposal to unify the country’s three existing gambling laws – the Lottery Act, Gambling Act and Totalizator Act – under a single legislative banner. The government has launched a consultation on the proposal that will run through September 29.

Abid Raja, Minister of Culture & Gender Equality, said the aim was to “secure responsible gaming and to prevent gambling problems and other negative consequences.” A “more comprehensive perspective” on gambling policy will see Raja’s Ministry assume all regulatory responsibility, eliminating input from the Lottery Committee and the Ministry of Agriculture & Food.

The new policy aims to ensure that gambling marketing is not “too extensive” or aimed at minors and vulnerable individuals. Raja also seeks more “efficient” operation from the Norsk Tipping (betting) and Norsk Rikstoto (racing) monopolies by putting government in charge of appointing their senior executives and board members.

Naturally, ensuring an artificially clear playing field for the monopolies gets its share of the focus. The Lotteritilsynet regulatory agency would get more tools to prevent internationally licensed online gambling operators from marketing to Norwegian punters, plus the ability to strong-arm local internet service providers to ensure local punters can’t access these international rapscallions’ websites.

The proposal also takes aim at ‘loot boxes’ in video games, although it suggests “a high threshold” for determining exactly when ‘gambling-like elements’ cross over into actual gambling, because “the law should regulate gambling and not other types of gambling.” Alrighty, then…

Beyond unifying the three gambling laws, the proposal is essentially a giant endorsement of the status quo. Norway’s government has been pursuing these same principles for years, despite more and more of its European neighbors abandoning the stodgy monopoly model for a more open and competitive market.

A cynic might suggest that Norway is trying to shore up the monopolies ahead of the release of a report by local responsible gambling group Spillavhengighet Norge, which is studying whether a competitive market might be more effective at keeping a lid on Norway’s rising problem gambling rates.