Adds comment from the Norwegian Financial Services Association
The Norwegian government last week enacted a much-protested payments ban, reminiscent of the United States Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006, which made American financial services responsible for policing online gambling transactions and drove the United States I-gaming market out of the country.
According to Rolf Francis Sims, legal adviser to the Royal Ministry of Culture and Church Affairs, the bill, which was introduced in September, passed through the second chamber of Parliament on Dec. 4, 2008, putting Norwegian financial institutions on the hook for blocking transactions to and from online gambling sites.
When the ban will be put into force, however, is unclear, Mr. Sims told IGN on Monday, because regulations for the ban are still being written.
While implementation of the ban is, at this point, up in the air, IGamingNews wanted to know:
What are the potential impacts of the Norwegian payments ban for operators and suppliers currently serving the Norway region?
Lasse Dilschmann: We (Ladbrokes Nordics, actually) have been monitoring this issue for quite some time, as you can imagine. I am extremely concerned of the attitude behind the proposed bill, as it seriously impacts consumer integrity in Norway. It would appear that the political forces behind this bill are the only ones supporting it. Norwegian consumers do not want it, Norwegian Banks frown upon the mere idea, and the EFTA Surveillance Authority as well as the European Union will most likely struggle to find the measure proportional in any way.
So, if this bill really gets implemented or not will be a question of whether the political minority forces pushing it can convince rather strong political and regulatory bodies that it is in fact a reasonable thing to do.
I am, as I said, concerned, even if this insane bill gets stopped it shows a contempt of freedom of choice and a complete disrespect for the basic ideas behind the free trade agreement within EFTA. Norwegian consumers should be quite aware, what might the next steps be?
Mr. Dilschmann, who has 14 years of experience of business development and marketing within online channels, is the chief executive officer of Ladbrokes' Scandinavian operations. On previous occasions, Mr. Dilschmann has been an outspoken opponent of the underpinnings of European gaming monopolies, fighting, in particular, against the Swedish monopoly operator, Svenska Spel. Ladbrokes states on its Scandinavian Web site, which does not offer games: "Ladbrokes is working to abolish the Swedish gaming monopoly. You deserve better…Ladbrokes will become part of a competitive and regulated Swedish gambling. Until then, we do not offer the game on a Swedish site."
Martin Peterlechner: We're digesting it at the moment. We haven't formulated a confirmatory position yet. Obviously, we would dearly, desperately like to keep serving Norwegian customers, but like everyone would just have to look at the nuts and bolts of the legislation and see how, or if, we can keep serving clients there.
Mr. Peterlechner is the director of commercial development at Ivobank. Prior to coming on at Ivobank, Mr. Peterlechner spent seven years at cahoot, the Internet division of Abbey National, in several roles, including Head of Product Marketing, Head of Business Development and Head of Sales & Marketing. He developed cahoot's customer proposition, held responsibility for achieving customer acquisition and revenue targets and was a member of the cahoot board for 2 years. Previously, he spent 7 years at Abbey National where his roles included Head of Channel Marketing.
Tonje Westby: The Norwegian Financial Services Association is in favour of initiatives and efforts that might reduce gambling dependence.
However, we are skeptical about the Norwegian government's legal amendment that says financial transactions to foreign online gambling companies might be considered as contribution to offence. This will be very difficult to maintain, and those who really want to gamble on the Internet will find other ways to do so.
The amendment was adopted in the Norwegian Storting on Dec. 4, but the Ministry has taken our concerns regarding the possibility of maintaining this law into account. They have said that the regulations might need to be revised. If the politicians choose to do so, it will take some months before the law amendments come into force. However, if they don't, the King in council may decide to put the law into force immediately.
Ms. Westby is the senior communication adviser for the Norwegian Financial Services Association, represents commercial banks, financial services institutions and insurance companies in Norway.