Thorhild Widvey, the Norwegian minister of Culture, is trying to achieve more liberal approach to live poker tournaments in the Scandinavian country.
The gambling market in Norway is strictly regulated. Only two state owned companies have exclusive rights to provide gambling opportunities in the country, according to Norwegian gambling laws. The offered games are lotteries, instant games, horse race betting and sports betting.
Slot games, which were preferred by Norwegians were substituted a few years ago by interactive video terminals, which are also state owned.
When it comes to poker, all forms of live poker are banned in the country. Despite this, poker lovers still find ways to play their favorite game and there are also a couple of famous Norwegian poker players, who score very well at different poker tournaments around the world.
Online poker is forbidden in Norway and the government has also imposed ban on local banks to process payments to online poker sites in Norway. Naturally, poker players use foreign poker rooms to play the game and this cannot be controlled by the authorities.
Fresh approach of the new government
The newly elected Norwegian government pushes for liberalizing of the gambling market
• Currently, all forms of live poker are banned in Norway
• The minister of Culture, Widvey proposes opening the way for country-based poker tournaments
• The European Commission is trying to influence EU MS to reconsider their national positions on internet gambling
What the current bourgeois Norwegian government is trying to introduce is an exception for poker championships. The goal is to allow poker championship tournaments on Norwegian soil and the Culture minister Widvey expressed her hopes that regulatory framework can be implemented in time, so that poker championships will be held in Norway as soon as 2015.
This recent proposal by the minister is very good gambling news and a relief for all poker fans and operators willing to organize live tournaments in the country. Of course, there will be certain rules that need to be followed and the approach will be deliberate. There will be certain limits as maximum buy-ins and prize pool sizes.
There is a high chance that high roller events will not be taking place and also casinos operators, which are willing to host poker tournaments will have to obtain special license.
Naturally, anti-gambling organizations oppose these changes in the status quo, pushing the argument that this change will encourage further expansion of the gambling industry in Norway. The Norsk Forening for Spillproblematikk (Norwegian Association for Gambling Problems) is already warning against the government’s willingness to liberalize gambling ban.
Ingjerd Meen Lorvik, a psychologist, who is the head of the NFS, commented: “Looking at the big picture, it gives easier access to gambling and there is a greater risk of development of addiction. Also, poker tournaments can become a training ground and port to such problems. Moreover, also all the advertising that comes with new games is a challenge and pressure.”
Widvey knows what she is doing
The proposal of Widvey is to allow paid permits for tournaments in licensed land-based gambling locations. It is quite likely that she will manage to achieve her goal, as the Conservative Party minister has impressive experience with moving bills through the legislative procedure.
She has an extensive political experience since 1989 and she was a ainister of the key Ministry of Petroleum and Energy in Bondevik’s second coalition government (2004-2005).
In her current gambling liberalization attempt, she will most probably be supported by the junior Progress Party in the ruling coalition, which has previously expressed its approval for a gambling license model like the one that is implemented in the neighboring Denmark.
Minister Widvey had approached Lotteritilsynet, Norway’s gambling regulator, and asked it to craft new legislation by March 1st 2014, so that her gambling liberalization plan can come into effect.
She might also expect support from another neighboring country, namely Sweden, which currently is reviewing its monopolistic approach on online gambling. This step was taken under the pressure coming from the European Commission, which is insisting that Swedish government is in conflict with some EU principles and needs to introduce changes to its national legislation.
European Union’s position on the gambling issue
The European Commission suggested two ways of approaching the online gambling issue, to the Swedish government. The first one is to justify the monopoly in terms of consumer protection and national public interest and the second one is to open the market using various licensing and regulation options.
The current European Commission’s approach is aiming at expanding EU equality, therefore it has opened infringement dossiers against the Czech Republic, Lithuania, Belgium, Cyprus, Poland and Romania.
So it seems that in addition to the need for more revenues, in order to revive the EU economy after the crisis, the EC is trying to influence EU member states to reconsider their national positions on internet gambling. So far, countries like Hungary, Portugal, the Netherlands and Ireland are already making steps to change their current legislation.
Widvey is pursuing success
Minister Widvey is firm about her position regarding the gambling changes in Norway.
In a written response to MP Roy Steffensen, she said: “I hope we can have a regulatory framework in place in time for a Norway championship of poker to be held in Norway in 2015. As I read it, the Gaming Act permits the government to allow tournaments through regulation and therefore it is probably not a matter for Parliament.”
In another response to Vart Land, Widvey added: “We do not add up to a deregulation of gambling in Norway, but we only want to open the path for country-based poker tournaments.”