Online gambling in Norway is flourishing. Despite the restrictions and tough legislations, it managed to rank third in Europe in terms of the highest gambling rate. It has even produced an Annette Obrestad, the youngest player to earn a World Series of Poker bracelet.

In order to curtail the popularity of online gambling and to exercise better control over the industry, the government has tried to enforce stricter measures, yet online gamblers seem to be finding ingenious ways to flout rules.

The Gambling Landscape

Gambling is an intricate matter in Norway. It is heavily regulated to purposely stem gambling addiction particularly in the rural areas. The online gambling landscape has been prohibitive, except for gambling provided by the two state-owned gambling sites – Norsk Tipping and Norsk Rikstoto. The former offers the players a wide range of online lottery and betting games. The latter exclusively operates tote or pari-mutuel betting.

Letting monopoly rule over gambling of all kinds makes it apparent that what the government is trying to thwart is locals accessing and gambling at foreign-owned online casinos/gambling sites.

Legal Efforts

To effect the restriction and prevent its citizens from playing at foreign online gambling sites, the government passed the Payment Act that took effect last June 1, 2010. It was patterned after the Unlawful Internet Enforcement Act of the United States. This law makes financial transactions between Norway residents and foreign online casino operators illegal. The law criminalizes the processing of transactions, payments in particular, and not the online playing itself.

The government has also turned down membership to the European Union. It is something that is feared will open up the possibility of eventually being persuaded or pressured to allow foreign online gaming operators to legally come in Norway.

Into the Future

The tough stance of the Norwegian government on gambling is perceived by the public as ineffective. The restrictive laws are seen to be merely punishing a minority of online gamers as a significant number of gamblers still discover ways to circumvent the laws. In fact, the laws are thought to have contradictory effect to that intended, resulting to an increase in the number of online participants through ingenious, illegal methods. Based on the results of a 2007 survey, Norwegian Gaming Board said that 1.3% of the 3,000 online gamblers were adjudged to be addicts. The figure rose to 2.1% in 2010 when the Payment Act was already in full effect.

Bent on stopping gambling in Norway, the government is said to be drawing up plans to block IP addresses to crack down illegal online gambling. In 2013, the government announced its plan of liberalizing the online gambling laws of Norway to allow foreign operators into the domestic market. While it may mean putting an end to Norsk Tipping and Norsk Rikstoto’s monopoly, it could end illegal gambling. Out in the open, the problem can be dealt with a more practical and effective policy.