gambling

Norway Gambles Gamblers Won’t Find A Way – But They Do

Norway gambling regulations

The Norwegian attitude to gambling is very much rooted in the past and the lack of forward thinking has led to a failure in policy to achieve the aims used to justify the restrictions

When it comes to Norwegian gambling laws you have to say there’s a temptation to look askance, lower ones voice and quote John Cleese in one of his many guises within ‘Life Of Brian’ saying; “It’s symbolic of his struggle against reality”. Not that we can completely equate the Norwegian authorities attitude to gambling with that of a man who wishes to be called Loretta and have babies, but it’s close.

The state controlled duopoly is merely a natural development of the historically po-faced attitude to gambling that reached the height in the middle of last century and still retains a stranglehold on mainstream views of gambling as a whole, a generalized mis-match of misconceptions, often stoked by the moral outrage professionals who seem determined to drag everyone back to the 1950s whatever the cost.

The peaceful small nation on the northern edge of Europe could perhaps once have fooled itself into thinking it could take the good of the modern world without being tarnished by the bad. Traditions and customs not jaundiced by the cultural invasion of the outside world, of which they very much see gambling a part. However in 2011 that illusion was shattered when a disturbed young man with extremist right with Islamaphobic views killed 77 people and injured hundreds more in attacks across the country.

Norway was no longer alone or apart. The insanity of the perpetrator still based in the real debate about changing attitudes and the manner in which the world is changing both as a whole and on a more regional level. The imposition of EU regulation seen by some as just more intrusion, nationalists seeing it as the thin end of the wedge as much in Norway as they do in every other European nation, be it UKIP in Britain or the National Front in France.

Accessories To Gambling

The EU’s laws governing equality of service provision and liberalization of markets within the union don’t sit comfortably with a great many of the vested interests left over from what is now a bygone age. National governments with interests in these economic sectors move sluggishly to comply with the EU regulations their people chose to join up to. Sometimes out of fiscal necessity, usually out of a lack of political will.

Are Norwegian Regulations Justifiable?
• State monopoly gives revenue to charities
• Payment blockages in force but circumvented
• Policies within the letter of the EU law but not the spirit of it

Norway argues that if it uses public companies to channel the gambling of its citizens it can ensure the revenues from these activities can be reserved for charitable or socially beneficial programmes. That’s why despite having the highest level of internet penetration in the world and indeed the highest per capital income, the opening up of this market to rightful and lawful competition has been all but stifled by successive governments.

Not only is the regulation regime skewed against all competition but it is also somewhat scatter-gun in its approach. Legislation penalizes not only the gambling but accessories to that activity. This means banks cannot take payments for or issue payments from unlicensed operators, and lets remember only one license has ever been issued. The concept and aim of all this restriction is entirely laudable and suffers from only one minor little flaw. It doesn’t work.

The payment blocking move was evaluated after two years and it was found that 54% of online gamblers were just as active as before, with 5% even more so, and that all the regulations had done was cause Norwegians to open bank accounts abroad, and a clear 30% of people enjoying internet betting in Norway were unaware of the prohibition anyway. This led to an expansion of the services offered by the Norsk Tipping monopoly.

Restrictions Fail To Produce Results

Whether you believe that such a restrictive system can be justified as being purposely and successfully constructed to reduce problem gambling or gambling addiction it remains to be seen if a government imposed monopoly of service provision is a proportionate and coherent gambling policy. Certainly it doesn’t actually stop Norwegians gambling, but does it, as they claim, lure people away from the illegal gambling the net offers?

This spurious argument is perhaps the most cynical given the only reason these online gambling activities are illegal is because the Norwegian authorities have done all in their power to make them so. They have cynically created a problem with legislation and then solved it with their own revenue boosting entity to replace it, but gamblers are rarely so easily put off and even the government admit enforcement is realistically impossible.

The efforts of governments to limit or constrict use of the internet, in whatever manner, always hinge on them gambling news of the illegality will be enough, the actual technology offering a simple solution to anyone who cares to Google for one. It doesn’t take Stephen Hawking to use a proxy address or privacy application to give one access to those sites the government so patronizingly feels you shouldn’t be using.


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