Monopolies Reach The Tipping Point in NorwayPublished June 12, 2020 by Lee R
Norway's way forward looks to be a competitive market with licensed protections against problem gambling.
New numbers in Norway show a severe breach of protections in that monopoly market
The Survey Increases
University of Bergen research reveals a disturbing disparity in problem gambling to the tune of a 62% increase.
In a survey commissioned by Norway’s Gaming and Foundation Authority, 9,000 citizen respondents between citizens the ages of 16 to 74 found that 55,000 people are now affected by problem gambling, with more than twice as many (122,000) estimated to be at risk.
EGBA Leader Concerned
European Gaming and Betting Association (EGBA) Secretary General Maarten Haijer called the findings “worrying and prove Norway’s gambling monopoly is not protecting its citizens.”
Haijer cited the prevailing dynamic of gamblers habitually shopping around for the best betting odds or bonuses, while being prepared to look elsewhere if they find their choices restricted anyway.
Contesting the Monopoly
Haijer like many believes the monopoly model is not conducive to effective protection of citizens, because the government interests are tied with sustaining the companies they control to maximize revenue, blurring the line between prioritizing problem gambling.
Matter of Time
With the “vast majority” of European countries having already shed monopolies in favour of license-based online regulation, Haijer believes it is only a matter of time before Norway will necessarily follow suit.
Free Market Benefits Await
Haijer cites better channeling; better tax revenues for the state and better consumer protection as incentives for Norway's prospective adaptation.
Current Norway Monopoly
Gambling in Norway is controlled by government-owned Norsk Tipping and Norsk Rikstoto, as organisations in possession of exclusive monopoly rights to provide all gambling and horse racing respectively in the small but lucrative Norwegian market.
Current Policy Barrier
The new calls to dissolve the monopoly fly directly in the face of existing justifications that the Norwegian gambling monopoly “can be better managed by the state rather than private companies.”
At this point, Norway is losing a lot of traffic. Research shows that almost a full half of Norway's gamblers are playing via international betting sites, attracted out of state by advantages such as more competitive odds and appealing games.
Of course, these forays outside the lines also leave Norway players fully vulnerable to the temptations and aggressive marketing from unlicensed operators that unchecked have been proven to lead to
increases in problem gambling rates.
Outdated Gaming Legislation
Current legislation underpinning the monopoly market in Norway stretches back almost 25 years: Norway's 1995 Lottery Act was established long before iGaming's emergence and widespread adaptation across Europe to a series of effectively liberalised yet uniform models of regulated jurisdiction.
Norway has added a new safety measure of blocking unlicensed sites from advertising or being visible to Norwegian players--a step in the direction reflects a deeper protection movement afoot. But how fast necessary changes can be implemented is still in question, with the prevailing monopoly precedent definitively representing the primary barrier at this moment.
The Liberalised Solution
The Norwegian online gambling association NBO expressed concern that the 55,000 figure represents a jump of 34,000 from 2015. Representing NBO Secretary General Carl Frederik Senstrom the solution to the rise in problem gambling as a more competitive gambling market.
As a test case, Senstrom inevitably pointed to last year's commitment of the larger Scandinavian neighbour Sweden to dissolve its longstanding monopoly in favor of a long-awaited and much ballyhooed liberalised market which is still being adapted.
Guidance for adaptation in Norway itself looks to be forthcoming quiet soon in light of this month's call from a working group of Norwegian addiction charities for the government to conduct a study of different market models.
Conventional wisdom indicates the government will sign off on further study and eventually dissolution of the monopoly, a process which is likely to accelerate if problem gambling in Norway rises any further.