Instead of following in the footsteps of countries like Italyby legalizing and regulating online poker, or Switzerland by considering the option of doing so, Norway has gone the opposite direction. The Norwegian government is in the final stages of banning all online gaming, including poker, involving its residents.
In a move even more severe than the U.S. government’s UIGEA that banned the funding of online gaming accounts through U.S.-based financial institutions, Norway has passed a proposal that bans all forms of internet gaming and poker with the one exception of Norsk Tipping AS, the national government-sanctioned lottery of the country. While the government likely opposed any other type of gambling because it would take away from its Norsk Tipping revenue, the official reason given by the government for enacting the law was to protect problem gamblers.
The new legislation, which was passed on December 12th, will likely become enforceable by the middle of 2009. Regulations still need to be written and approved for the law, including instructions for the Norwegian banks regarding the enforcement of the law.
The country’s Financial Services Association, along with other Norwegian financial institutions, were vocally opposed to the law, noting that there would be problems with enforcement. Those arguments resonated with U.S. financial institutions, who also argued against the implementation of UIGEA regulations, and similar to the situation in America, those objections were ignored in Norway as well. The European Commission reportedly also spoke out against the law prior to its passage.
As with the UIGEA, Norway’s new law may be looking at legal challenges before it is finalized, with some predicting that the points of contention will include the question of the Norsk Tipping AS lottery as a monopoly, as well as the argument that poker should not be classified as a game of chance as are other “gambling” activities. How the European Court of Justice will react to such a case has yet to be speculated upon, but at least one of Norway’s senior legal advisors has predicted it will get to that point.
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