SBC News Lottstift orders Kindred brands to exit Norway or face extreme penalties

Lottstift orders Kindred brands to exit Norway or face extreme penalties

The Norwegian Lottery Authority (Lottstift) has repeated its warning to Kindred Group subsidiary Trannel International that it must exit Norway’s online gambling marketplace or face severe consequences.  

Restating its Q1 warning, Lottstift demanded that Trannel retire the brands of Unibet, MariaCasino, Storspiller and or face daily coercive fines of NOK 1.2m (€120,000) on Kindred’s Malta-based subsidiary.

Should Trannel remain non-compliant, Lottstift stated that its penalties could reach a total of NOK 437m (€45m) – a figure the regulator believes is Trannel’s annual gross profit from “illegal activities targeting Norwegian consumers”.

Kindred has long contested its right to operate in Norway, filing legal challenges against Lottstift claiming that Trannel had been infringed upon by unfair regulatory practices endorsed by the regulator.

In July, Kindred was dealt a blow as its latest Oslo District Court appeal was rejected, favouring Lottstift’s decision to order the suspension of Trannel, which was deemed to have ‘provided an illegal gambling offer’.

The Oslo District Court had validated a prior judgement by Norway’s Ministry of Culture and Equality that Lottstift held the regulatory rights to ban Trannel from the market.

“When a gambling company that operates illegally in Norway can earn NOK 437 million from its illegal activity in the course of a year, we owe it to the Norwegian people and those who struggle with gambling problems to do what we can to stop the illegal business,” said Lottstift Regulatory Director Henrik Nordal.

Lottstift underlined that market surveys had indicated that “six out of 10 Norwegians did not know that Unibet, Mariacasino, Storspiller and Bingo were illegal gambling in Norway”.

“Our most important societal mission is to protect those who have problems with gambling or who are at risk of developing a gambling problem. We expect Trannel to take social responsibility and withdraw from the Norwegian market,” Nordal added.

Since 2019, Norway’s government has ordered Lottstift and counterpart agencies (finance, media and advertising) to strengthen their regulatory frameworks to prohibit unlicensed online gambling activities.

The toughening of rules followed revelations that Norway’s Sovereign Wealth Fund had invested in online gambling companies active in Norway and undermined the position of state-owned gambling operators Norsk Tipping (betting and lotteries) and Rikstoto (horse racing).

The following years saw Lottstift order Apple Inc to remove all gambling apps from its App Store for Norway – a regulatory action challenged by Trannel.

Further conflicts dawned in 2021 as Medietilsynet, Norway’s Media Authority’ updated the ‘Broadcasting Act’ to include gambling restrictions drafted by Lottstift.

The Ministry of Culture was forced to intervene in a dispute between Medietilsynet-&-Lottstift vs Disney Europe – the pan-European media network that had been instructed to remove its channels from Norwegian TV platforms Telia, Telenor, RiksTV and Altibox.

This summer Disney Europe agreed to modify its Scandinavian content for its international channels of MAX, VOX, FEM and Eurosport to comply with the gambling restrictions of the Broadcasting Act

Last summer Storting approved the legislative project of Culture Secretary Abid Raja to form a ‘Common Law on Gambling’ by merging Norway’s three existing gambling laws of the Totalizer Act (1927), Gaming Scheme Act (1992) and Lottery Act (1995).

The project will see the Ministry of Culture and Equality publish the first draft of Norway’s unified gambling laws by January 2023.  

Of significance, new powers will be granted to Lottstift to “request direct information from financial institutions to track gambling transactions”, with the regulator given rights to “impose predetermined coercive fines and infringement fees”.

Despite pleas from gambling trade bodies, Storting underlined that its review of gambling laws would not include an evaluation of Norway’s current monopoly status, a task which will not feature in Raja’s brief.

SBC News Lottstift orders Kindred brands to exit Norway or face extreme penalties

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