Norway’s Gambling Authority Lottstift has issued an update regarding the discontinuation of ‘illegal’ gambling operations and hinted at a strengthening of its powers next year.
The regulator specifically outlined Betsson, ComeOn Group, bet365 and Kindred as the four most prominent firms which it states are scaling down their operations in Norway after being subject to its investigations.
In the case of Betsson, Lottstift asserted that the Stockholm-based group is closing down both its NordicBet and Betsafe brands in the country. There was no mention, however, of its BML Group holding, which was ordered to stop targeting Norwegian customers in 2021.
When contacted by SBC for comment, a Betsson spokesperson reiterated the statements made by the firm following its Q2 trading update regarding the BML situation. The sites are available to Norwegians, but are designed and worded to minimise appeal.
The spokesperson explained: “In Norway, in the pending matter regarding the cease-and-desist order of the Norwegian gambling authority (NGA) against BML Group Ltd, the company has implemented all of the changes previously agreed with the NGA, including the currency change to EUR.
“BML Group informed the NGA of these changes and stated that it, in its view, had complied with the cease-and-desist order, and there was no longer a basis for the imposition of coercive fines.
“BML requested that the NGA make a new overall assessment of BML Group’s gambling offer. The NGA has, pending this assessment, granted a further suspension of the cease-and desist order until mid-September.”
The regulator is apparently giving advice to companies seeking to withdraw from Norway. However, it also stated that the alleged closures are indicative that ‘regulation is working’ and that Norway is ‘not as lucrative a market for illegal gambling companies as it was before’.
Notable developments cited by Lottstift in its crusade against overseas operators include a ban on advertising – an initiative of the media regulator Medietilsynet, which won praise from its gambling counterpart – and prohibition of payment intermediaries.
“These are companies that are neither allowed to offer nor market gambling to Norwegians,” said Henrik Nordal, Director of the Norwegian Lottery Authority.
“The withdrawal of several of the largest gambling companies that operate illegally in Norway will prevent gambling problems and contribute to a safer and more responsible gambling offer in the Norwegian market.”
Kindred brands Unibet, MariaCasino and Bingo.com are also on the list of brands which Lottstift states are exiting the Norwegian market. The group’s Trannel International subsidiary has previously been subject to ‘daily coercive fines’ for allegedly targeting Norway without a local licence and, in October 2022, the firm temporarily closed these brands off from Norwegian customers.
However, in a statement to SBC, the operator asserted that it does not operate in Norway, but that Norwegians can still access its Malta Gaming Authority (MGA) licensed betting and gaming products.
“As we have mentioned before – we have never been on the Norwegian market,” Kindred’s statement read.
“However, we offer gambling as a service on the international entertainment market pursuant to a licence from Malta to Norwegian residents who have legally and at their own free will chosen to participate in our offers.”
Lastly, this viewpoint was also echoed by the Norwegian Trade Association for Online Gambling (NBO) – and this statement has received an endorsement from the final big name on the Lottstift list, ComeOn Group.
The Malta-based company’s flagship ComeOn! brand as well as its GetLucky are, according to the regulator, withdrawing from Norway. However, Come On Group confirmed to SBC that it is backing the NBO statement as ‘the factual correct position’ for overseas operators.
Summarising the views of operators with services open to Norwegian bettors, the NBO’s statement read: “The members of NBO are established and regulated in other jurisdictions and offer their services based on the fundamental freedoms secured by the EEA Agreement.
“NBO members are responsible and have, because of dialogue with Norwegian authorities, adapted their offer. Norwegians may still use the services legally offered by NBO’s members in the international market, meaning offers not directed at the Norwegian market.”
Regardless, Lottstift stated that it is going to follow up with continued supervision of ‘several illegal companies’, and that new regulations coming into force next year will enable it to block international betting sites.