Gaming in Norway: overview

A Q&A guide to gaming in Norway.

The Q&A provides a high level overview of the legislative framework of gambling regulation; the regulatory authorities; gambling products; land-based gambling; regulation and licensing; online gambling; B2B and B2C operations; mobile gaming and interactive gambling; social gaming; gambling debts; tax; advertising and developments and reform.

To compare answers across multiple jurisdictions, vist the Gaming Country Q&A Tool.

This Q&A is part of the Gaming Global Guide. The gaming global guide serves as a starting point for understanding the regulatory framework of land-based and online gaming.

Amie Ida Ørbeck Eliassen, Kluge Advokatfirma AS
Contents

Legislative framework of gambling regulation

Overview

1. What legislation applies to gambling?

Legislative framework

Gambling in Norway is regulated by the:

  • Gaming Scheme Act 1992.

  • Totalisator Act 1927.

  • Lottery Act 1995.

Detailed rules are set out in regulations to the acts. These three acts together constitute coherent and exhaustive regulation of all forms of lottery and money gaming legally operated in Norway.

Norwegian gambling legislation prohibits operators from providing, marketing or distributing any form of gambling without a licence from the national gaming regulator, the Norwegian Gaming Authority (Lotteri og Stiftelsestilsynet).

The Gaming Scheme Act, the Totalisator Act and the Lottery Act all apply to both land-based and online gambling. Wilful or negligent violation of the provisions of these acts is a crime, punishable with fines and/or imprisonment. The Gaming Authority can also impose administrative sanctions for violating the acts, including administrative orders and coercive fines.

The Gaming Scheme Act and the Totalisator Act give the following operators exclusive rights to provide the majority of legal gambling activities in Norway. These operators are also the only entities that can provide online gambling:

  • Norsk Tipping AS (Norsk Tipping). This is established and regulated by the Gaming Scheme Act and administrative regulations adopted under it. All profits generated by its gambling activities must be redistributed to socially beneficial causes. The Ministry of Culture owns 100% of the shares in Norsk Tipping (see also below, Gaming Scheme Act).

  • Foundation Norsk Rikstoto (Norsk Rikstoto). This is an independent foundation originally established by the Norwegian Jockey Club and the Norwegian Trotting Association. The majority of the profits it generates from its gambling activities is channelled back into the equine sector (see below, Totalisator Act).

Therefore, Norwegian gambling legislation is, in reality, a state monopoly that gives Norsk Tipping and Norsk Rikstoto exclusive rights to provide the majority of land-based and online gambling activities. Although, there is a (strictly limited) right for private operators to apply for licences to provide gambling activities under the Lottery Act (for example, private operators can apply for a licence to provide a lottery (section 6 and section 1(a), Lottery Act)), commercial operators are not eligible to request a full gaming licence from the Gaming Authority.

The jurisdiction of the Lottery Act, the Gaming Scheme Act and the Totalisator Act includes the Kingdom of Norway and the archipelago of Svalbard (Spitsbergen). These Acts do not prohibit participation in unlicensed gambling activities. Therefore, it is not a crime for Norwegian citizens to gamble in Norway on websites that do not have a licence from the Gaming Authority.

Gaming Scheme Act

Norsk Tipping has exclusive rights to operate the following (section 2, Gaming Scheme Act):

  • Gaming activities related to sporting events and other competitions (except horserace betting).

  • The number game Lotto.

  • Gaming activities that use gaming machines.

  • Other games that fall within the scope of the Gaming Scheme Act.

Providing, marketing and distributing games related to sporting events or other competitions and number games is forbidden without a licence from the Gaming Authority (section 2(1) and (3), Gaming Scheme Act).

Totalisator Act

Under the Totalisator Act, betting on horse racing (totalisator games) is prohibited without a licence. Only organisations that support horse breeding can be granted a licence (section 1(3), Totalisator Act).

Only Norsk Rikstoto has a licence to provide totalisator games under the Totalisator Act.

Lottery Act

The Lottery Act applies to private operators who provide, market and distribute "lotteries". Providing a lottery in Norway is prohibited without a licence (section 6, Lottery Act). It is also illegal to market or distribute an unlicensed lottery.

The Lottery Act states that only organisations with a humanitarian and socially beneficial purpose are eligible for a gambling licence. All profits from a lottery must be distributed to charitable and humanitarian purposes. Commercial betting companies, therefore, cannot obtain a licence from the Gaming Authority to provide gambling activities in Norway (see Question 5).

 

Definitions of gambling

2. What is the legal definition of gambling in your jurisdiction and what falls within this definition?

General definition

The legal definition of gambling is set out in section 1(a) of the Lottery Act, which defines a lottery as "any activity in which a participant may for a stake acquire a prize as a result of a draw, guesswork or other procedure which wholly or in part produces a random outcome". The definition of a lottery is wide and normally includes almost any gambling activity, including:

  • Traditional casino games.

  • Betting.

  • Sports betting.

  • Slot and machine gaming.

  • Bingo.

  • Traditional lotteries.

To fall within the definition of gambling, an activity must satisfy three cumulative conditions:

  • The player must be able to place a stake.

  • The player must have the possibility of winning a prize.

  • The prize must be the result of a draw, guesswork or other procedure which is wholly or partly due to chance.

Stake

The requirement of a "stake" implies that the player must pay some form of fee to participate in the activity. As a rule, any payment over and above the normal price for a product or service is considered to be a fee. If the player can participate in the games for free, the activities will not fall within the definition of gambling.

Wholly or partly due to chance

Only competitions that are wholly or partly due to chance fall within the definition. Games that include elements of knowledge or skill fall within the definition if they are partly due to chance, such as poker. Games in which the result solely or mainly depends on a player's skill or knowledge are not considered to be gambling, such as bridge or chess.

According to case law and administrative practice, most games that include an element of chance will fall within the definition. For example, the Gaming Authority considers that knowledge quizzes with multiple choice answers fall within the definition because it is possible to win by guessing.

Prize

A game must offer the possibility to win a prize, which includes money, things or other assets with an economic value.

The salient point is whether the prize that the player can win by participating in the game has an economic value, in which case the prize condition is fulfilled. Difficult questions arise when the prize is paid out in virtual currency. Whether or not such games fall within the definition will depend on whether the virtual currency has economic value (see Question 12).

If all three conditions of the definition are fulfilled, the activity will be considered gambling under Norwegian law and must be licensed. Activities that do not fall within the definition are not subject to Norwegian gambling legislation. However, they may be subject to other legislation such as the Marketing Control Act and the Taxation Act.

Online gambling

The definition of gambling applies to both land-based and online gambling activities (see above, General definition).

Land-based gambling

The definition of gambling applies to both land-based and online gambling activities (see above, General definition).

 

Regulatory authorities

3. What are the regulatory or governmental bodies that are responsible for supervising gambling?

Norwegian Gaming Authority

The Norwegian Gaming Authority is the public regulatory authority responsible for supervising and controlling private operators. Norsk Tipping and Norsk Rikstoto carry out their activities in accordance with the Lottery Act, the Gaming Scheme Act and the Totalisator Act.

The Gaming Authority can issue and withdraw licences, approvals and authorisations for gambling activities under the Lottery Act. It can also impose administrative sanctions for breach of any gambling legislation.

Ministry of Culture

The Ministry of Culture is the overall regulatory and supervisory authority for the Lottery Act and the Gaming Scheme Act. This can issue general instructions to the Gaming Authority, but cannot instruct it in individual cases.

Ministry of Agriculture and Food

The Ministry of Agriculture and Food is the overall regulatory and supervisory authority for the Totalisator Act. This can issue general instructions to the Gaming Authority, but cannot instruct it in individual cases.

Lottery Committee

The Lottery Committee (Lotterinemnda) is an independent administrative authority appointed by the Ministry of Culture and is the appeal body for the Gaming Authority's administrative decisions. The Lottery Committee is only competent to review administrative decisions under the Lottery Act. The Ministry of Culture can give general instructions to the Lottery Committee, but cannot instruct it in individual cases.

See box, The regulatory authorities.

 

Gambling products

4. What gambling products have been specifically identified by legislation, and what different requirements have been established for each?

Poker

Poker tournaments can be held with a licence from the Gaming Authority (section 8, Lottery Regulation). Commercial operators authorised by the Gaming Authority can arrange tournaments on behalf of licensed organisations.

Private poker games do not require a licence if they fulfil certain requirements (section 5(c), Lottery Act and section 5-3, NGA Regulation) (see Question 5).

Betting

Norsk Tipping and Norsk Rikstoto have exclusive rights to provide, market and distribute most betting games in Norway. Other operators are prohibited from providing, marketing and distributing betting unless licensed by the Gaming Authority.

Sports betting

Norsk Tipping and Norsk Rikstoto have exclusive rights to provide, market and distribute sports betting in Norway. Other operators are prohibited from providing, marketing and distributing sports betting unless licensed by the Gaming Authority.

Casino games

Casino games cannot be provided, marketed or distributed without a licence from the Gaming Authority. No licence has ever been granted to open a land-based casino in Norway. Norsk Tipping has the exclusive right to provide interactive online casino games.

Slot and other machine gaming

Norsk Tipping has the exclusive right to provide slot and other machine gaming (section 15, Lottery Act). Other operators are prohibited from providing, marketing and distributing slot and other machine gaming, and cannot obtain a licence (section 15, Lottery Act; section 9, Lottery Regulation).

Norsk Tipping's exclusive rights to slot machine gaming was challenged in the so-called "gaming machines cases" both in the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) Court (E-1/06) and in the Norwegian Supreme Court (Rt. 2007 s. 1003). The claimants argued that the exclusive rights provision was a violation of Articles 31 and 36 of the Agreement on the European Economic Area 1992 (EEA Agreement). Both courts held that the exclusive rights provision was objectively justified, and therefore not a breach of Articles 31 and 36 of the EEA Agreement.

Terminal-based gaming

Operators other than Norsk Tipping are prohibited from providing, marketing and distributing gambling activities through gaming machines. The Bingo Regulation provides that operators with a licence to provide bingo can provide terminal-based gaming in bingo halls.

Bingo

Providing, marketing and distributing bingo is prohibited without a licence. The Gaming Authority can issue licences for bingo under the Bingo Regulation. Authorised commercial operators can arrange bingo on behalf of licensed organisations.

Lottery

The Lottery Act defines a lottery as "any activity in which a participant can for a stake acquire a prize as a result of "a draw, guesswork or other procedure which wholly or in part produces a random outcome" (section 1(a), Lottery Act). This definition is far-reaching and includes most gambling activities (see Question 2, General definition).

Providing, marketing or distributing a lottery is prohibited without a licence. The Gaming Authority can issue licences for lotteries under the Lottery Regulation and the Gaming Authority Regulation. Authorised commercial operators can arrange lotteries on behalf of licensed organisations.

Certain types of lotteries with a limited turnover do not require a licence under the Lottery Act (see Question 5).

Pyramid games

Providing and participating in pyramid games or similar systems in Norway is forbidden (section 16, Lottery Act).

 

Land-based gambling

Regulation/licensing

5. What is the licensing regime (if any) for land-based gambling?

Available licences

General prohibition. It is forbidden for a gaming operator to provide gambling activities without a licence from the Gaming Authority (section 6, Lottery Act; section 2, Gaming Scheme Act) and activities falling within the definition of gambling cannot be provided, marketed or distributed in Norway without a licence. It is also forbidden to market and distribute gambling activities without a licence (section 11, Lottery Act; section 2, Gaming Scheme Act). The prohibition against distributing gambling activities includes payment transfers of stakes and winnings to and from unlicensed operators.

The Gaming Authority can only issue licences to non-profit organisations, and these cannot be issued to commercial operators. However, gambling legislation allows commercial operators to arrange gambling activities on behalf of non-profit organisations for a fee, provided these commercial operators are authorised by the Gaming Authority.

Commercial operators cannot be issued a licence for providing a lottery, although there is a limited right to apply for licences to provide lotteries under the Lottery Act (see below, Available licences). Certain lotteries do not require a licence.

Licences. Under the Lottery Act, organisations can apply for licences to provide the following activities:

  • Post-drawn and pre-drawn lotteries drawn by the Gaming Authority or other public authority (section 6, Lottery Regulation).

  • Lotteries drawn by a commercial operator (section 7, Lottery Regulation).

  • Tournament poker (section 8, Lottery Regulation). Licences are granted to provide yearly Norwegian championships with up to three kinds of tournament poker and five regional qualifying championships.

  • Bingo (under the Bingo Regulation).

  • Pre-drawn scratch card lotteries (under the Scratch Card Regulation).

  • Licences to provide gambling activities on Norwegian ships en route between Norwegian and foreign harbours (under the Ship Gambling Regulation).

  • Licences for entertainment machines (under the Entertainment Machine Regulation).

Activities not requiring a licence. The following gambling activities do not require a licence under the Lottery Act (sections 7 and 5(2) , Lottery Act; Chapter 5, Norwegian Gaming Authority Regulation):

  • Lotteries with a yearly turnover under NOK200,000 if they are provided by organisations with a humanitarian and socially beneficial purpose. However, if the organisations use a commercial company to arrange the activities on their behalf, a licence is required.

  • Bazar, where the maximum prize is NOK8,000, the maximum stake is NOK5 and the total value of all prizes for each bazar is NOK40,000 at most.

  • Private poker games held in private homes between people in the same social circle, provided the games do not have a "professional character". Participants must be over 18 years of age, number less than ten and have a maximum stake per player, per meeting of NOK1,000.

Eligibility

Lotteries can only be held for the benefit of a charitable and humanitarian purpose, with the exception of (section 5, Lottery Act):

  • Lotteries not accessible to the general public.

  • Lotteries held by bazar under Chapter 5 of the Norwegian Gaming Authority Regulation.

  • Private poker games held under Chapter 5 of the Norwegian Gaming Authority Regulation.

Private commercial operators cannot hold a licence, but a lottery licence holder can sub-contract the operation of their lotteries to private commercial operators for a fee (section 4(c), Lottery Act). Any private sub-contractor must be authorised by the Gaming Authority.

Application procedure

Licence to non-profit organisation/association with humanitarian or socially-beneficial purpose. The Gaming Authority can grant licences for the provision of gambling activities under the Lottery Act. Applications for lottery licences must be made to the Gaming Authority using the rules set out in the Lottery Act and relevant regulations.

Licences under sections 7 and 8 of the Lottery Regulation are only distributed after a public application procedure. Under section 7, the Gaming Authority can only issue five licences, each of which lasts up to nine years. New licences are unlikely to be available until 2025. Under section 8, the Gaming Authority issues licences for land-based tournament games which last for three years. The next application procedure will take place in 2017.

Organisations applying for a licence to provide lotteries with a turnover exceeding NOK200,000 must be approved by the Gaming Authority. Approval is only given to organisations registered with the Norwegian Central Co-ordinating Register for Legal Entities (NCCRLE) with a humanitarian or socially beneficial purpose.

Authorisation for commercial operators on behalf of non-profit organisations/associations. Commercial operators that run lotteries on behalf of licensed organisations must be authorised by the Gaming Authority. The conditions for authorisation include the following:

  • The company must prove (by providing a clean criminal record) that its chairman and general manager (or owner or partner) has not been guilty of any criminal offences relating to economic activities or breach of the Lottery Act.

  • The company must be solvent.

  • The company must be registered with the NCCRLE.

Foreign companies may be required to provide further documentation.

Property owners who lease property used for gambling activities must be approved by the Gaming Authority (sections 2 to 3, Gaming Authority Regulation).

The processing time for licences, authorisations and approvals is about three months.

Duration of licence and cost

The duration of the licence and cost differs according to each specific licence:

  • Post-drawn and pre-drawn lotteries drawn by the Gaming Authority or other public authority cost NOK3,000 and last for one year (section 6, Lottery Regulation).

  • Lotteries drawn by a commercial operator cost NOK30,000 with a yearly fee of NOK20,000 until the end of the licence period. A licence is valid for nine years (section 7, Lottery Regulation).

  • Tournament poker licences cost NOK10,000 with a yearly fee of NOK60,000 until the end of the licence period. A licence is valid for three years (section 8, Lottery Regulation).

  • Bingo licences (under the Bingo Regulation) cost NOK1,250 and are valid for one year.

  • Pre-drawn scratch card lotteries (under the Scratch Card Regulation) cost NOK6,000 and the licence is valid for the sale of a specific number of scratch cards.

Other fees are as follows:

  • Fee for approval of an organisation: NOK1,000.

  • Fee for authorisation of a commercial operator: NOK20,000.

  • Fee for approval of property owners: NOK1,200.

Organisations, commercial companies and property owners must register in the Norwegian Lottery Register which costs NOK300.

 
6. What are the limitations or requirements imposed on land-based gambling operators?

Prohibitions

Norsk Tipping and Norsk Rikstoto are strictly regulated and have a number of prohibitions and restrictions on their ability to provide gambling activities. These prohibitions/restrictions are set out in the Gaming Scheme Act and the Totalisator Act and their regulations.

The main prohibition is that activities falling within the definition of gambling cannot be provided, marketed or distributed without a licence from the Gaming Authority. The Gaming Authority is prohibited from granting a licence to commercial operators (see Question 5).

Restrictions

The following is an overview of the restrictions imposed on organisations with a licence to provide gambling activities. The restrictions differ according to each individual licence.

Lotteries. The general restrictions on lotteries provided under the Lottery Regulation are (section 5, Lottery Regulation):

  • The main prize cannot exceed NOK2 million.

  • The value of the prizes must constitute at least 25% of the lottery's permitted turnover.

  • The total amount of tickets sold must be approved in advance by the Gaming Authority. The amount must reflect the lottery's expected sales volume, either based on an estimate from the applicant or actual sales from previous lotteries.

  • The Gaming Authority cannot grant licences for interactive lotteries carried out through electronic mediums. An interactive lottery is a lottery where the draw happens at a time chosen by the player and according to the player's order (this restriction does not prohibit the distribution of pre-drawn or post-drawn lotteries via electronic communication).

  • No more than 15% of the lottery's turnover (after deduction of prizes) can be used on marketing (section 7(a), Lottery Regulation).

Sections 6 and 7 of the Lottery Regulation include a number of further restrictions. The most relevant include:

  • Post-drawn and pre-drawn lotteries drawn by the Gaming Authority or other public authority (section 6, Lottery Regulation). The lottery's turnover cannot exceed NOK100 million per year. A minimum of 20% of the lottery's turnover (after deduction of prizes) must go directly to the organisation holding the lottery licence.

  • Lotteries drawn by a commercial operator (section 7, Lottery Regulation). The lottery's turnover cannot exceed NOK300 million per year. A minimum of 50% of the lottery's turnover (after deduction of prizes) must go directly to the organisation holding the lottery licence. The organisation must have an international activity which consists of more than 50% of its total booked operating costs, and must have at least NOK20 million in yearly booked operating costs relating to its international activities. Any commercial operator running a lottery on behalf of the licensed organisation must provide sufficient security for the prizes, have sufficient equity and present a clean auditor's report. It must also be approved by an authorised test institute in the EEA and can prove that the lottery is protected against abuse and manipulation.

Poker tournaments. Restrictions on tournament poker include (among others) (section 8, Lottery Regulation):

  • The main prize in the poker tournament cannot exceed NOK2 million.

  • The number of participants is limited to 5,000.

  • Participants must be over 18 years of age.

  • A minimum of 5% of the turnover must go to the organisation holding the licence and up to 10% of the turnover can go to the commercial operator arranging the tournament to cover costs incurred with running the championship and tournaments.

Bingo. Restrictions on bingo are set out in the Bingo Regulation and include (among others):

  • The maximum turnover per year, per licence is NOK700,000.

  • At least 15% of the profits from traditional bingo and 30% of the profits from ancillary bingo games (electronic bingo and pre-drawn bingo games) must go to the organisation holding the licence.

Anti-money laundering legislation

Money laundering is a crime (sections 337 to 341, Criminal Code). Wilful and negligent money laundering (as well as co-operation and attempt) are covered by the provisions. Sanctions include fines or imprisonment from two to 15 years.

The Norwegian Money Laundering Act (Lov om tiltak mot hvitvasking og terrorfinansiering mv. dated 6 March 2009) does not apply directly to gambling operators. However, it states that the relevant ministry can lay down further rules specifying who is subject to the law and make the Act applicable to undertakings operating gaming activities (section 4(6), Money Laundering Act). So far, no regulations have been adopted.

In conjunction with Directive 2015/849/EU on the prevention of the use of the financial system for the purposes of money laundering or terrorist financing (Fourth EU Anti-Money Laundering Directive) into Norwegian law, it is likely that the Money Laundering Act will be extended to include operators of gambling activities. It is currently uncertain when the implementation will take place.

 

Online gambling

Regulation/licensing

7. What is the licensing regime (if any) for online gambling?

Available licences

Online gambling is subject to the same regulation as land-based gambling activities, provided that the online gambling activities fall within the definition of gambling. Providing, marketing and distributing online gambling is prohibited without a licence (section 6 and 11, Lottery Act and section 2, Gaming Scheme Act). For the relevant licensing regime, see Questions 5 and 6.

Norsk Tipping and Norsk Rikstoto have exclusive rights to provide online gambling in Norway. Other operators must apply for a licence from the Gaming Authority under the Lottery Act.

The prohibition on granting licences to commercial operators applies to online gambling as well as land-based gambling, so only organisations with a humanitarian or socially beneficial purpose will qualify for a licence.

The Gaming Authority cannot issue licences for interactive lotteries distributed through electronic channels (section 5( 4) , Lottery Regulation). However, it can issue licences for pre-drawn or post-drawn lotteries through electronic channels.

However, in practice, no operators other than Norsk Tipping and Norsk Rikstoto are allowed to provide, market or distribute online gambling activities in Norway.

Eligibility

See Question 6.

Application procedure

See Question 6.

Duration of licence and cost

See Question 6.

Jurisdiction

Providing, marketing or distributing gambling activities through Norwegian websites is considered to take place in Norwegian territory and is therefore subject to Norwegian gambling legislation.

However, difficult jurisdictional questions arise in relation to providing, marketing and distributing gambling activities from foreign websites or servers. The Norwegian courts have not explicitly dealt with these questions.

Norwegian companies that are managed and run in Norway, but which provide gambling activities through non-Norwegian websites or servers in an effort to circumvent gambling laws are likely to fall within the jurisdiction of Norwegian gambling legislation. These companies are subject to the prohibition against providing, marketing and distributing gambling activities without a licence.

The question of whether non-Norwegian operators providing, marketing or distributing gambling activities from a non-Norwegian server fall within the jurisdiction of Norwegian gambling legislation has not been finally resolved by the Norwegian courts. Certain crimes that are carried out outside Norwegian territory still fall within Norwegian jurisdiction if their (intended) effect takes place in Norway (the principle of effect) (section 7, Norwegian Criminal Code).

In the preparatory works to amendments to the Gaming Scheme Act and the Lottery Act (Ot.prp.nr. 44 (2002-2003)), it was discussed whether "the principle of effect" means that the prohibition against providing, marketing and distributing gambling activities without a licence can be invoked against foreign operators providing unlicensed online gambling activities on foreign websites. However, the discussion was inconclusive. In a public letter to the Gaming Authority dated 16 February 2007, the Ministry of Culture stated that the principle of effect means that online gambling activities provided by a foreign operator through a foreign server, which are specifically targeted at Norwegian citizens, will fall within the scope of Norwegian gambling legislation, even if the activities are available to citizens in other countries. The Gaming Authority is instructed to enforce the gambling provisions in accordance with the Ministry's interpretation and generally considers that gambling activities are targeted at Norwegian citizens if the website:

  • Is available in Norwegian.

  • Has Norwegian customer support.

  • Has a Norwegian representative.

  • Offers games in NOK.

  • Encourages circumvention of the prohibition on payment blocking.

The Gaming Authority may also take other factors into account in addition to those explicitly listed above.

The Gaming Authority has issued administrative sanctions against foreign operators for unlawfully providing, marketing and distributing gambling services (section 11, Lottery Act and section 2(3) , Gaming Scheme Act). See, for example, administrative decisions against Trendy Gaming Group Ltd (2010), Cherryföretagen AB (2011) and PlayCherry Ltd (2016). The Decisions against Tendy Graming Group Ltd and Cherryföretagen AB were upheld by the Lottery Committee (the PlayCherry Ltd decision was not appealed).

Norwegian courts have not explicitly dealt with jurisdictional issues surrounding gambling legislation. However, based on administrative practice, there is a risk that the courts will consider that gambling activities provided by non-Norwegian operators on non-Norwegian servers, which are specifically targeted at Norwegians, will fall within the jurisdiction of Norwegian gambling legislation.

 
8. What are the limitations or requirements imposed on online gambling operators?

The limitations and requirements imposed on online gambling operators are the same as those imposed on land-based gambling operators (see Questions 6 and 7).

 

B2B and B2C

9. Is there a distinction between the law applicable between B2B operations and B2C operations in online gambling?

There is no formal distinction between business to business (B2B) operations and business to customer (B2C) operations.

Wilful and negligent violation of gambling legislation provisions is a crime carrying sanctions such as fines and imprisonment (section 17, Lottery Act, section 16, Gaming Scheme Act and section 3, Totalisator Act). Being a wilful or negligent accomplice to these violations is punishable under the same provisions (section 15, Criminal Code).

B2C operators who enter into contracts with customers in Norway are in breach of gambling legislation if they do not have a licence from the Gaming Authority. Operators will be liable for sanctions under gambling legislation.

B2B operators who contract with players using a white label site run by a third party will be acting in violation of the prohibition against providing, marketing and distributing gambling activities if they do not have a licence. The white label site will most likely be liable for unlawfully distributing and marketing gambling products if the B2B operator does not have a licence.

B2B operators who licence products to gambling operators without directly contracting with customers in Norway will be acting in direct violation of the marketing and distribution prohibition (section 11, Lottery Act and section 2(3), Lottery Act). They will also most likely be liable as an accomplice if the B2B operator is aware or should be aware that the licensee is providing, marketing or distributing online gambling products to customers in Norway without a licence (sections 6 and 11, Lottery Act; sections 2(1) and (3), Gaming Scheme Act).

 

Technical measures

10. What technical measures are in place (if any) to protect consumers from unlicensed operators, such as ISP blocking and payment blocking?

Payment blocking was introduced in Norway in 2010 through amendments to the Lottery Act, Gaming Scheme Act and Totalisator Act and the adoption of the Regulation on Payment Transfers 2012. These provisions provide that the following entities are prohibited from transferring payment of stakes and winnings from gambling operators that do not have a licence from the Gaming Authority:

  • Banks.

  • Financial institutions.

  • Payment institutions.

  • E-money institutions.

  • Norwegian branches of foreign financial institutions and payment institutions.

  • Other entities that carry out payment transfers in Norway,

The payment block means that all transfers of funds from a Norwegian bank account to a user location with the Merchant Category Code (MCC) 7995 (gambling activities) will be blocked. However, the Gaming Authority is aware that many online gambling providers use third-party solutions to circumvent the regulation, which means that the payment block has been less effective than hoped (see Gaming Authority report dated 25 January on the Regulation on Payment Transfers).

Norwegian authorities have not used ISP blocking to protect consumers from unlicensed operators.

 

Mobile gambling and interactive gambling

11. What differences (if any) are there between the regulation of mobile gambling and interactive gambling on television?

Mobile gambling and interactive gambling are subject to the same regulation as land-based gambling activities, providing that the mobile gambling and interactive television gambling activities fall within the definition of gambling (see Question 2, General definition). Providing, marketing and distributing gambling is prohibited without a licence (section 6 and 11, Lottery Act; section 2, Gaming Scheme Act).

Under the current regulation, only Norsk Tipping and Norsk Rikstoto have exclusive rights to offer interactive gambling activities in Norway. The Gaming Authority is prohibited from granting licences for interactive gambling (including mobile gambling and interactive gambling on television) to commercial operators (section 5(4), Lottery Regulation).

 

Social gaming

12. How is social gaming regulated in your jurisdiction?

Social gaming is subject to Norwegian gambling legislation provided that the gaming activities fall within the definition of gambling (see Question 2, General definition). However, if any one of the three conditions in the gambling definition is not fulfilled, the social game will not fall within it. Such games are legal and do not require a licence. They may, however, be subject to other legislation (for example, the Marketing Control Act and the Consumer Protection Act).

Social games that are free to play will not normally fall within the definition of gambling because there is no stake (see Question 2, Stake). However, games that are free to download but require or offer the possibility of purchasing premium features may include a stake because payment is required to achieve the full gaming experience.

Social games in which a player can win prizes in virtual currency will fall within the definition if the virtual currency has an economic value (provided the other conditions of the definition are fulfilled).

Virtual currency has economic value if it can be used to purchase goods or services that one would otherwise have to pay for with regular currency (for example, BitCoins represent an economic value). However, virtual currency that cannot be exchanged for goods or services of monetary or other value, but can only be used as credits to play games within the game or the app, is not likely to be considered to have an economic value.

Social games where the player can only win virtual currency which cannot be exchanged for other prizes of monetary value, but can only be used to take part in virtual games within the game or app, are unlikely to fall within the gambling definition.

 

Gambling debts

13. Are gambling debts enforceable in your jurisdiction?

Loans or credit given to a player for use in gambling activities are not enforceable in Norway (section 12, Act on the Entry Into Force of the Criminal Code 1902). This applies irrespective of whether the credit or loans are given for use in authorised or unauthorised gambling, according to a Supreme Court Judgement from 2003 (Rt. 2003 s. 1210). However, if the creditor is unaware that the money will be used for gambling, he has a right to enforce his claim against the debtor.

In a decision from 2006 by the Complaints Board for Consumers in Banking (BKN-06039) concerning a player that incurred gambling debts by using his MasterCard and Visa card on a gambling website, the Board decided that the bank could not enforce the gambling debts against the player. The Board stated that the bank had received the Merchant Category Code for gambling services and was therefore deemed to know that the credit was being used for gambling.

 

Tax

14. What are the applicable tax regimes for land-based and online gambling?

Land-based gambling

Incidental winnings from a competition, game, lottery or similar over NOK10,000, are, as a rule, considered taxable income (section 5-50(1), Norwegian Taxation Act (NTA)). Incidental winnings under NOK10,000 from a gambling activity are exempt from tax. This applies even if the taxpayer receives more than NOK10,000 winnings in total from several gambling activities within a year. Incidental winnings over NOK10,000 from a gambling activity are subject to tax for the whole amount. This applies even if the winnings are shared between several taxpayers.

Income or winnings that are closely related to the recipient's education, work or business activities are not considered incidental and will not fall within the scope of section 5-50 of the NTA. This means that winnings belonging to players carrying out gambling activities on a professional level cannot be taxed in accordance with section 5-50 of the NTA. Instead these winnings will be "income" and taxed in accordance with the general provisions on income tax under the NTA.

Winnings from legal Norwegian gambling activities are generally fully exempt from tax (section 5-50(2), NTA). This means that winnings from Norsk Tipping and Norsk Rikstoto's gambling activities are exempt from tax, as well as winnings from private operators with a licence to provide lotteries. In addition, winnings from publicly official competitions arranged by the media are also exempt from tax.

Winnings from gambling activities in another EEA state, that are comparable to gambling activities legally provided in Norway, and which are subject to public supervision and control in the home state, will also be fully exempt from tax (section 5-50(2)(d), NTA).

In Norway, only organisations with a humanitarian or socially beneficial purpose can get a licence for gambling activities, meaning that commercial operators cannot be granted a licence (see Question 5, Available licences). Therefore, winnings from commercial gambling operators within the EEA are not comparable to gambling activities that can legally be provided in Norway, and do not qualify for the tax exemption in section 5-50(2)(d) of the NTA. This was recently confirmed in the judgment of the Gulating Appeal Court of 19 April 2016 (LG-2015-162007). The court also found that the provision was in accordance with Norway's obligations under the Agreement on the European Economic Area 1992 (however, it denied the applicant's request for a reasoned opinion from the EFTA Court).

In practice, therefore, the majority of winnings from EEA gambling activities (for example, winnings received through online gambling on EEA websites) will not be exempt from taxation under section 5-50(2)(d) of the NTA.

Online gambling

See above, Land-based gambling.

 

Advertising

15. To what extent is the advertising of gambling permitted in your jurisdiction? To the extent that advertising is permitted, how is it regulated?

The marketing prohibition

Marketing (including advertising) licensed or authorised gambling activities is permitted within the limits set out in the Lottery Act, Gaming Act, Totalisator Act and their regulations.

Marketing or distributing unlicensed gambling activities is prohibited (section 11, Lottery Act and section 2(3) , Gaming Scheme Act) (the marketing prohibition). The marketing prohibition covers marketing and advertising of unlicensed foreign gambling activities to Norwegian citizens.

The marketing prohibition is far reaching, and includes, according to the Gaming Authority, "all forms of communication via a mass medium, which is paid for by an identified sender and which is carried out in order to promote the turnover of unlicensed gambling activities". According to the Gaming Authority, the prohibition includes both statements and other measures that stimulate or encourage purchase of unlicensed gambling services. Marketing unlicensed gambling from Norwegian websites, as well as links and banners from Norwegian websites to foreign gambling websites with unlicensed gambling services, is prohibited. Purely editorial articles that are not initiated or financed by a gambling operator are permitted.

According to the Ministry of Culture and the Gaming Authority, advertising or marketing gambling products from a non-Norwegian website, which is specifically targeted at Norwegian customers, falls within the scope of the marketing prohibition (see Question 7). The Gaming Authority has issued administrative orders against a number of non-Norwegian operators that have marketed and distributed gambling services from foreign websites (see, for example, the Decision of 18 April 2016 against PlayCherryLtd and Spillautomater.com).

Some foreign betting companies claim that the marketing prohibition does not apply to EEA-licensed operators broadcasting their gambling activities from foreign websites, provided that these operators act in accordance with the marketing regulation of the country in which they have their licence.

The scope of the marketing prohibition has not been resolved in the Norwegian courts. However, based on the Gaming Authority's administrative practice there is a risk that a Norwegian court will consider that advertising or marketing gambling products from a foreign website specifically targeted at Norwegian customers falls within the scope of the marketing prohibition.

Audiovisual Media Services Directive

Marketing gambling through TV channels from abroad is specifically regulated under Directive 2010/13/EU on the coordination of member states concerning the provision of audiovisual media services (Audiovisual Media Services Directive). This Directive provides that it is the regulation in the broadcaster’s country of origin that determines what type of advertising the television channel can broadcast.

Despite the marketing prohibition set out in Norwegian gambling legislation, there is a large amount of advertisement for gambling websites and other gambling services with a license in another EEA state on TV channels broadcasted in Norway. If the advertisement is legal in the country where it is broadcast it is protected by the Audiovisual Media Services Directive and difficult for Norwegian authorities to restrict without violating Norway's obligations under the Agreement on the European Economic Area 1992.

The Norwegian authorities have attempted to reduce the number of foreign gambling advertisements by using the consultation procedure in Article 4(2) of the Audiovisual Media Services Directive. However, the authorities have not adopted appropriate measures under Article 4(3) of the Audiovisual Media Services Directive, which (among other things) requires approval from the EFTA Surveillance Authority.

 

Developments and reform

Legal development

16. Has the legal status of land-based and online gambling changed significantly in recent years, and if so how?

There have been no significant changes to the legal status of land-based and online gambling in recent years.

 

Reform

17. What, if any, are the likely short-term and long-term developments/legislative amendments concerning gambling in your jurisdiction? Are there any proposals for reform?

Land-based and online gambling

The government is looking at possibly reforming Norwegian gambling legislation from the current monopoly-based system to a licence-based system. However, the reform has yet to reach the legislative stage.

The government is expected to present a white paper to parliament in December 2016. If the white paper supports reform, the government will initiate a legislative procedure to amend the current legislation.

 

The regulatory authorities

The Gaming Authority

W https://lottstift.no/en/the-gaming-authority

Description. The Gaming Authority is a public authority reporting to the Ministry of Culture. It is responsible for supervising and controlling the Lottery Act, Gaming Act and Totalisator Act.

Ministry of Culture

W www.regjeringen.no/en/dep/kud/id545/

Description. The Ministry of Culture is responsible for the policy in the areas of culture, copyright, church, the media, sport and the voluntary sector. The Ministry also has overarching responsibility for the state lotteries run by Norsk Tipping and for regulating gaming and lotteries run by private organisations.

Ministry of Agriculture and Food

W www.regjeringen.no/en/dep/lmd/id627

Description. The Ministry of Agriculture and Food has chief responsibility for food policy and agricultural policy. Agricultural policy covers land utilisation, agriculture and forestry, reindeer and other animal husbandry and development of new agriculture-based industries. The Ministry of Agriculture and Food has the overarching responsibility for regulating and supervising gambling activities under the Totalisator Act.

The Lottery Committee

W https://klagesaker.no/lotterinemnda

Description. The Lottery Committee is a public authority that acts as an appeal body for administrative decisions taken by the Gaming Authority about the Lottery Act.



Online resources

Lovdata

W www.lovdata.no

Description. This website provides access to a collection of online legal resources including official versions of Norwegian laws, case law from all courts in Norway, case law from certain administrative bodies, articles and more.

Translations of Norwegian legislation

W http://app.uio.no/ub/ujur/oversatte-lover/cgi-bin/sok.cgi?type=LOV

Description. Unofficial translations of Norwegian laws are available on the website of the University of Oslo. The translations are not legally binding and may not have been updated since the time of translation.



Contributor profiles

Amie Ida Ørbeck Eliassen, Senior Associate

Kluge Advokatfirma AS

T +47 994 90 005
F +47 23 11 00 01
E amie.eliassen@kluge.no
W www.kluge.no

Professional qualifications. Norway, Solicitor (advokat)

Areas of practice. EU/EEA-law, state aid and competition law; company law and M&A; gambling law.

Non-professional qualifications. LLM, Master of Laws, King's College London;

Master of Laws, University of Bergen, Norway.

Languages. Norwegian, English, French and other Nordic languages (fluent). German (basic level).

Professional associations/memberships. Advokatforeningen (the Norwegian Bar Association).

Publications. Amie Eliassen and Gudmundur Gudmundsson, Being a Competition and State Aid Trainee at the EFTA Surveillance Authority (2016) State Aid Hub by lexxion.


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