Why has Norway a state gambling monopoly?

Become aware of the reasoning behind why Norway is a state gambling monopoly at odds with the rest of Europe’s approach to gambling in the online sphere

  (photo credit: INGIMAGE)
(photo credit: INGIMAGE)

Norway is one of the few countries within Europe that has state sponsored gambling as the only regulated online gambling option. It means that in terms of what’s available to players in a legal sense, it is way behind other European countries in terms of what it can actually offer. There are a number of reasons why the government has chosen this approach. We have taken a look at how the Norway government justifies this decision, as well as the ramifications of implementing such stringent measures.

Attempt to Protect Players

The main reason that the Norwegian government has attempted to use a state monopoly for its gambling operations, is to help protect players from problem gambling issues. The belief is that with a government-controlled gambling operator, then players can be monitored closely, and the gambling operator will have more protocols in place to care for, and ensure the safety of players. It means that sites, such as NorgesCasino that offer different casino options to Norway players, don’t tend to cover the government selection. 

This attempt at protection might come from a positive place, but there are reservations from players. Some of these are well founded, but they have caused a range of different issues for the Norwegian government. It’s important to note, that the problems here aren’t caused by the players in the whole, this is an issue that has been almost entirely of the government’s making. 

Players Feel they are being Ripped Off

First and foremost, players don’t feel like they are being treated fairly by the government. They believe that the odds that are offered, aren’t completely reasonable, and they can get better prices playing at other sites. This means that players tend to look for new sites to play at. Part of the belief behind the poorer odds, and prices that are offered at the state casino, is because it brings in great revenues for the government. 

While this might have benefits for society at large, for example better infrastructure is possible within the country, players at online casinos don’t care about this. They generally play to win, and if they feel they are being treated unfairly, then they will take their custom elsewhere. By offering just the single state operated online casino, it means that players are more suspicious of, and question their trust for the state casino. 

Players are Choosing to Play Elsewhere

This is an obvious side effect of the state government sites not being of a high quality. It’s a simple fact, that in the modern world, the internet gives people access to pretty much whatever they want. As such, players have decided to make the move to playing at offshore sites. This has a significant impact on the Norwegian government. 

The first issue, is that the tax revenue from online gambling drops by a significant amount. In fact, it’s now estimated that around two thirds of all online gambling takes place at unregulated, offshore sites. It means that this is revenue that’s completely non-taxable by the government. It significantly diminishes how much money is going into the coffers of the country. It’s not just lost tax revenue either. 

Because the money is being spent offshore, it means that the money is completely leaving the ecosystem of the country. From here, it means the overall GDP of Norway is lower due to the restrictive policy of the government. It also has two slightly bigger issues than just the loss of revenue for the country. 

Opposite Impacts to the Aim

This is the area that’s most concerning to the government in Norway. The principal aim of the state-backed casino, is to protect players. By forcing players to play at offshore casinos through the use of a monopoly, it means that problem players will be looking outside at sites that potentially don’t have any restrictions or safeguards in place. 

This leaves players at a much greater risk than if there were a number of different sites available in Norway, through not just a single regulator, but multiple operators. It doesn’t protect problem players like the stated aim of the government, but it actually puts players at much greater danger down the line. It would be too simple to suggest that the government has taken this policy because it is greedy, but it’s more likely that it’s just uninformed about what its policy actually achieves. 

It goes further than this as well. It’s not just problem players that are impacted by the choice to have a single regulator. As already stated, two thirds of players choose to play at offshore sites. As a lot of these sites operate without any regulation in place, it means that players don’t have any protection at all. 

So, for example, if a player grabs a really big win, a totally unregulated site could choose to refuse to pay out, and there is nothing that the player could do. Of course, a way to avoid this would be to play at a site that has regulation from a trusted regulator in another jurisdiction. While it doesn’t offer direct protection, it does mean that the regulation from another area does mean it is more likely to be a trustworthy site. 

This decision by the Norwegian government is undoubtedly a strange one. Whether, this will change in the future remains to be seen, but at the moment it is still causing issues for players in the country, and for the government.

This article was written in cooperation with Nordic Affiliates Ltd.