Norway Enacts Payments Ban (Update 1)

8 December 2008

Adds comments from Betsson A.B. and Ladbrokes.

Norway's Parliament, the Storting, has enacted legislation that puts Norwegian financial entities on the hook to block payments for Internet gambling.

Rolf Francis Sims, legal adviser to the Royal Ministry of Culture and Church Affairs, confirmed that the bill passed through the second chamber of Parliament last Thursday.

"The path forward: The bill has been sent back to the Government to be put into force," Mr. Sims said in an e-mail to IGamingNews.

"When this will happen is unclear, due to the pending work on more detailed regulations pursuant to the new bill," he said.

Mr. Sims has agreed to provide an English-language version of the new law once it’s available.

Meanwhile, IGN has begun gathering comments from operators and suppliers who serve the Norway region.

Pontus Lindwall, chief executive of Betsson A.B., told IGN today via e-mail that protective monopolistic legislation is not good for the consumer or, in the long run, for countries that implement such legislation.

"Freedom of choice is very important for consumers, regardless of what they are consuming, including gaming," said Mr. Lindwall, who has been outwardly critical of the ban. "Further on, Betsson believes that a protective monopolistic legislation will be in breach with the European Free Trade Association agreement that Norway is a part of."

The European Free Trade Association, or EFTA, was established in May of 1960 as a trade bloc-alternative for European countries that could not or weren’t able to join the European Economic Community, which is now the European Union.

Mr. Lindwall, whose company opened a betting shop in Stockholm in June, told IGN that after the shop opened, Betsson had tried to get Sweden and other European countries to realize that the nations are part of the European Union.

Per Scavenius, Ladbrokes' country manager in Norway, said his company is fighting the ban, but he is not particularly worried about it because there are many ways around it.

Mr. Scavenius has no doubt that implementation of the law will be delayed due to Norway's banking industry, which, similar to the United States banking industry, would essentially be forced to police online gambling activity.

"Speaking to the banking industry last week, they left me in no doubt that they don’t really know how to separate the (Merchant Category Code) 7997 code from the national operators -- Norsk Tipping and Rikstoto -- to the remote gaming operators," he said. "This has led me to believe that we will not see an implementation of the ban until next fall. In the meantime, there will certainly be business as usual."

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