A game-changer on Norway’s gambling restrictions

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Norway has maintained strict policies that keep gambling largely illegal, with exceptions for lotteries, sports betting, Keno and a few others. The ban included professional Poker tournaments as well as private poker games, until very recently.

poker legalised in Norway

The Ministry of Culture and Church Affairs, which oversees gambling in Norway, has begun to relax the ban, specifically on Poker. The Nordic Page, a Norwegian news publication, quoted Culture Minister Thorhild Widey, saying, “Until today, Poker Championships were not allowed to be held in Norway. In the future, this championship can be held in Norway.”

In addition to that, the government has introduced a bill to permit private Poker games, with the condition that they “do not have an organised and professional purpose,” according to the Nordic Page.

As could be expected, the move has been met with resistance from some corners, namely The Norsk Forening for Spillproblematikk (Norwegian Association for Gambling Problems), which has warned the government against liberalizing the gambling ban. The head of the group, Psychologist Ingjerd Meen Lorvik, said, “Look at the big picture, it gives easier access to gambling and there is greater risk of development of addiction. Also Poker tournaments can become a training ground and port to such problems. Moreover, all the advertising that comes with new regulation is a challenge and pressure.”

Only two state-owned companies are allowed to offer gambling to Norwegian citizens in Norway, namely Norsk Tipping and Norsk Rikstoto, and the government have been working to stop foreign companies from operating in Norway. They enforce rules about what times of day people may gamble and the size of the bets they can place. In 2010 the Norwegian government passed a law to force Norwegian banks to deny customers the use of credit and debit cards at land and online casinos worldwide, and citizens are required to declare winnings made in another country.

The Nordic Page further explained that arranging gambling parties in the privacy of a home is perfectly legal, with condition that, as previously mentioned, they do not operate in a professional manner. However enforcing such a law would likely prove challenging, as the difference between a regularly-occuring private Poker party or a low-key professional operation could be in the name only.

In April 2013, The Nordic Page reported that a giant in the online Poker business was eyeing the Norwegian market in spite of the restrictions, while negotiating with nine other European countries that were considering changes to their licensing laws. At the time, the gross revenue from Norwegian players to foreign gambling websites was around five billion dollars. Online gambling in Norway remains legal, but only at state-run gambling sites and there are no online Poker sites in Norway. However, it is known that Norwegians still play at foreign online Pokers sites, since the government has no jurisdiction where those sites are located.