Norway’s gambling monopoly said it didn’t witness any mass increase in problematic online casino activity during this spring’s pandemic lockdown, partly due to the state-run company’s spending limits.
On Friday, Norsk Tipping issued a report on Norwegian gambling activity after the country declared a national state of emergency on March 13 due to COVID-19. This resulted in the closure of all retail gambling operations, including the Multix and Belago slots halls, while sports betting suffered from the suspension of major league play.
Lotteries reported a minor surge in activity in April as other gambling options dried up, although this is a seasonal phenomenon due to Easter-related promotions. Lottery sales quickly settled back to a more normal level by May and remained there through September.
Norsk Tipping’s Oddsen sports betting product reported sales plunging to “a pale minimum” in April, as a betting slate of eSports and Belarusian football “did not appeal” to most bettors, many of whom “disappeared from all gaming when their main interest disappeared.”
Online bingo was largely unaffected by the pandemic. Online casinos and digital lottery scratch cards – Norsk Tipping’s primary areas of concern in terms of problem gambling – reported “a small increase” in activity but “not much more than the steady growth of online casino in recent years” and certainly not enough to replace sales lost through declines in sports betting and retail slots.
Norsk Tipping maintains strict online casino spending limits, which resulted in spending surges during the initial week of each month of the lockdown, followed by sequential decreases each week until the calendar flipped to a new month and the cycle started anew. However, the market began to normalize by the end of May.
Norsk Tipping applies a green-yellow-red color code to its gamblers in terms of problem gambling behavior, and the two weeks following the March 13 lockdown were “greener than in many years.” Online casino saw a red spike in July, apparently due to land-based slots players’ belated realization that they had online options, but this level had “somewhat” declined since then.
Norsk Tipping says the return to normalcy makes it difficult to determine whether the lasting impact of the pandemic on Norway’s problem gamblers. The company promised further details in its next report, which will focus on customers’ personal experiences during the lockdown.
Norway is among the few European markets still clinging to its state-run monopoly gambling model and remains utterly disinterested in discussing more competitive alternatives. The government recently announced plans to unify its three-headed gambling regulatory regime into a single entity, which would receive greater powers to target internationally licensed online competitors of Norsk Tipping and its racing counterpart Norsk Rikstoto.