Norway’s NBO attacks TV ad ban plans

9 March 2020

News that the Norwegian government has moved to finally close the loophole allowing offshore operators to advertise in the country has been greeted with dismay by the trade association representing these companies, Norsk Bransjeforening for Onlinespill (NBO).

However, NBO Secretary General Carl Fredrik Stenstrøm added, while it was disappointing, it was not surprising. He argued in favour of a shift to a more liberal regulator model as opposed to attempting to maintain a monopoly for gambling.

“[It is] disappointing that the authorities do not recognise the development we see in other countries where a license model has been implemented - where accountability is at the centre,”  Stenstrøm said.

It was announced late in February that the Norwegian government is to table amendments to the Broadcasting Act. This will allow the Norwegian Media Authority to order Norwegian TV distributors and internet providers to prevent marketing by offshore operators.

Currently the Broadcasting Act’s jurisdiction only extends to TV stations in Norway, rather than those broadcasting into the country from other countries. For years unlicensed operators have used this to promote their products in the country, despite state-owned Norsk Tipping and Norsk Rikstoto being the country’s only licensed operators.

Stenstrøm said rather than attempting to crack down on offshore activity, Norway should instead work towards developing a new regulatory model to regulate private operators.

He pointed out that today only Norway and Finland maintained monopolies over gambling in the European Union.

“If you are able to defend a monopoly, it is on the grounds of consumer protection,” he said. “According to [Norwegian regulator] Lotteri-og stiftelsestilsynet, there are 250,000 Norwegians using my members' services outside Norway. We know there are more - but let's say 250,000.

“It [would] be much better to give these players good tools to be able to regulate their gambling through [a self-exclusion system].

“In Sweden, 48,000 have already used this service after 12 months, a success for those who want to limit their gambling and a success for public health,” he said.

However, a report by Olso Economics on behalf of the Norwegian Sports Federation and addiction treatment body ExtraStiftelsen Health and Rehabilitation warned against opening up the market to private operators.

Published in August last year, the report claimed that this move could see players shift from the state-operated, low-risk lottery products to higher risk verticals such as online casino. Furthermore, it said, as activity moved from the state-owned sites to private operators, there could be a significant reduction in funding for good causes.

NBO current counts Betsson, Kindred Group, Cherry's ComeOn and Gaming Innovation Group as members.