Norway, or officially known as the Kingdom of Norway, is a Nordic country, with most of its population living in the far south part of the country, near the capital Oslo. The gambling scene in Norway may seem far too restrictive at first glance, but Norwegians definitely have enough options when they feel the need to place wagers on their favorite casino games or sporting events.
Currently, gambling is legal in Norway and it is regulated by state-owned companies, including Norsk Tipping AS and Norsk Rikstoto. The former is regulating the national lottery, scratch cards, instant games, and some forms of sports betting, while the latter is controlling horse racing.
The gambling industry in the country is growing rapidly, with a 2018 study showing that 58% of Norwegians reported playing lotteries. In 2019, Norsk Tipping reported revenue of NOK8.16 billion, with profit gaining 2.8% thanks to online sales. The active users for that year reached a record high of 2 million, bringing the full-year turnover to NOK40.27 billion.
Currently, the authorities that regulate the industry are fully owned by the state. Having a monopoly over the gaming sector is against the regulations imposed by the EU. This being said, Norway can get away with that as it is not a member state of the EU but rather it is only associated with it due to being a member of the European Economic Area (EEA).
Lottery games have the biggest contribution to Norway’s GGR for 2019, generating NOK5.27 billion for Norsk Tipping. In 2007, all slot halls were banned by law, following numerous cases of companies making use of a loophole in the law and were offering slot machines at different non-gambling facilities. While standard slot machines are banned in the entire country, there are still some facilities that offer gaming machines. There are also no land-based casinos located in Norway, meaning there is also no way to bet on roulette, card games, or different table games.
Gambling Laws in Norway
The gambling industry in Norway is being regulated thanks to three important legislations. These include the Totalisator Act 1927 , Gaming Scheme Act 1992, and the Lottery Act 1995. The legal age to participate in any form of gambling is 18 years or older. The only exception is purchasing scratch cards as they can technically be purchased by anyone over the age of 14. There are, however, many lottery vendors refusing to sell scratch cards to individuals who are below the legal gambling age of 18.
According to section 298 of the Norwegian Penal Code 1902 , “any person who makes a living by gambling, which is not permitted by a special Act, or by inducement thereto, shall be liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding one year”. According to section 299, games that indicate that “gain is the dominant purpose” fall under the category of gambling.
This law determined that only licensed games of chance could be offered to Norwegians. Such games were regulated by the state and unlicensed operators had to be penalized.
While many games may fall under the definition of gambling, to consider a game a form of gambling under the Norwegian laws, it must meet a few criteria. The definition of gambling applies to both land-based and online games.
The first condition is individuals being able to make wagers in order to participate in any form of gambling. The stakes that players make are not necessarily monetary as there are instances like the Norwegian lottery Pantelotteriet where players can participate after staking plastic bottles.
The second condition for games that fall under the category of gambling is players having real chances of winning money or other prizes with an economic value. Prizes given in the form of virtual currencies are a bit trickier to define. In such cases, the game is considered a form of gambling only if the virtual currency still has an economic value.
The third condition that games must meet to fall under the definition of gambling is to offers prizes that must result from a random draw, guesswork, or another type of random outcome that depends on chance. Meanwhile, games of skill do not count as variations of gambling.
The state-owned operators Norsk Tipping and Norsk Rikstoto are overseen and regulated by the Norwegian Gaming Authority. This authority also issues or suspends licenses, as well as authorizes the provision, distribution, and marketing of gambling activities. The Gaming Authority is also the jurisdiction that can impose sanctions that resulted from breaching the gambling laws of Norway.
The Gaming Authority is authorized to issue licenses only to non-profit organizations. This means that commercial operators cannot apply for gambling licenses. This being said, commercial operators that have been authorized by the Gaming Authority can organize gambling activities for non-profit organizations for a certain fee.
There are several forms of lotteries that do not require a license by the Gaming Authority. These include lotteries by humanitarian and socially-beneficial organizations, with the yearly turnover of these lotteries being under NOK200,000. If the lottery, however, is organized by a commercial operator, the organization is required to apply for a license.
There is also no need for a license if a bazar is offering a maximum prize up to NOK8,000, the maximum allowed stake is NOK5, and the total value of prizes does not exceed NOK40,000. The gambling legislation of Norway also allows private poker games hosted in private homes without a license. All participants must be over the age of 18, the maximum allowed stake per person must be NOK1,000 and there must be less than ten players in the game.
Under the Lottery Act, a license can be obtained by non-profit organizations if they provide several gambling activities. These include post-drawn or pre-drawn lotteries, which are drawn by the Gaming Authority, another public authority, or commercial operators. Poker tournaments, bingo, and pre-drawn scratch cards are also among the activities that require a license. Non-profit organizations must apply for a license when they provide gambling activities on Norwegian ships that sail between the country and foreign harbors. Lastly, a license is required if the organization will offer gaming machines.
The definition of online gambling in the Norwegian legislation is the same as the one of land-based gambling. Only licensed operators are allowed to provide, market, and distribute any form of gambling. Currently, only Norsk Tipping and Norsk Rikstoto are authorized to provide online gambling to Norwegian players.
The two state-owned operators who are licensed to offer online gambling, however, do not provide the best odds or the most diverse gaming options to Norwegians. Unfortunately, at the moment, commercial operators cannot apply for online gambling licenses and it seems Norwegian players do not have many options to bet online.
There are many offshore operators that welcome Norwegian players and will even allow them to use NOK for their deposits and withdrawals. While technically illegal, playing at an offshore online casino is not something that Norwegian players will be prosecuted for. This is why many Norwegians still find plenty of websites where they can enjoy a plethora of games, and some of the best odds on sporting events.
In an attempt to prevent Norwegian players from betting on offshore websites, in 2010, the government passed a law that forbids any online gaming payments that are initiated at offshore online casinos and betting sites. Except for the state-owned Norsk Tipping and Norsk Rikstoto, no other operators were allowed to accept credit/debit card payments by Norwegian players. Norwegian banks were required to block any transactions that are related to online gambling at unauthorized offshore websites.
Despite the ban, however, many unlicensed operators had their ways to ensure that Norwegian players would be able to make deposits and withdrawals online and enjoy their favorite casino games or sports bets. Payment solutions like Neteller, Skrill, or other similar methods allow Norwegian players to make payments on offshore gaming websites and place bets online. Even though the government of Norwegia was trying to eliminate illegal online gambling, it was estimated that Norwegians were still spending around NOK6 billion on gambling at offshore online casinos and sportsbooks.
Applying for a License in Norway
Non-profit organizations and humanitarian or socially-beneficial organizations must submit their lottery license applications to the Gaming Authority. Licenses for poker tournaments and lotteries offered by commercial operators on behalf of non-profit organizations are issued after a public application process.
Licenses for offering lotteries with a turnover of more than NOK200,000 should also be approved by the Gaming Authority. Only humanitarian and socially-beneficial organizations that are registered with the Norwegian Central Coordinating Register for Legal Entities (NCCRLE) are eligible to receive approval.
Commercial operators that wish to offer lotteries on behalf of licensed organizations should meet several conditions to be authorized by the Gaming Authority. The company must prove a clean criminal record, it has to be registered with the NCCRLE, and it should be solvent. The processing time that involves authorizations and licensing by the Gaming authority may take roughly around three months.
Plans for Revision of Gambling Laws in Norway
The Norwegian government started realizing that the current full-monopoly model of regulating the gambling business costs huge losses in tax revenue. If Norway legalizes and regulates online gambling within the country, numerous Norwegians will simply choose to bet at local licensed operators rather than resorting to offshore illegal gambling.
The country’s main regulator, Lotteritilsynet, believes that better regulation of the gambling sector can decrease the illegal wagering in Norway and can lead to serious growth of the Gross Gaming Revenue (GGR).
Authorities in Norway have proposed some amendments to the gambling legislation to ensure a better gambling environment and properly regulated industry. Since there are different forms of gambling they should be regulated using different approaches and control measures. According to government officials, it is not possible to regulate offline and online gambling by using the same legislation. Mixing the two types of gambling will only lead to further confusion and many will take advantage of these circumstances.
The decision about introducing changes to the gambling law was also supported by the fact that the current three acts that control the industry are outdated and cannot be properly applied to the modern gambling environment in Norway. Only time will tell whether there will be any amendments to the gambling law in Norway. Even if that happens, it does not guarantee that the state-monopoly system of regulation will soon be replaced by a new model of regulating the gambling sector in the country.