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Norway gov mulls blocking online gambling

Probably not political, though

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The Norwegian government this week indicated it is considering blocking the ISP addresses of companies that offer gambling online.

This follows a survey, attributed to the Norsk Tipping state gambling monopoly, suggesting that tough measures to curb online gambling already taken by the Norwegian government had failed: far from reducing the incidence of online gambling, more Norwegians than ever - some four per cent of Norwegians of those over the age of 18 - were depositing money on foreign gambling sites.

Reports that a block is under consideration first surfaced in Norwegian newspaper Dagbladet, which suggested that Culture Minister Anniken Huitfeldt was actively considering ISP filtering to block foreign internet gambling operators.

Reaffirming that government opposition to unregulated online gambling remained as strong as ever, she is reported as saying: "We want to consider using filtering IP addresses against gambling companies that are undesirable in Norway.

"Such measures have been successfully used in Italy, Estonia and France, and the concept has found favour in Denmark."

According to government rhetoric, this move is needed to address rising domestic problems of gambling addiction and fraud. However, online gambling site GamingZion reckons there are still 253 Norwegian sites that offer gameplay in English or Norwegian and accept wagers in Norwegian Kronor or US Dollars.

It states that online gambling in Norway is legal, but the situation is "tricky", with Norsk Tipping, a state-run company that controls all lotteries and sports betting in Norway, the only internet site where Norwegian players can legally place bets at present.

This is because in December 2008, Norway brought in a law to block online gambling through foreign online casinos, and following the implementation of this law on 1 June 2010, banks and credit card companies in Norway were no longer allowed to transfer funds between Norwegian accounts and foreign internet gambling sites.

The law does not, however, prevent state-run companies such as Norske Tipping and Rikstoto from continuing to profit significantly from online gambling. Cynics therefore suspect that these moves have more to do with protecting domestic business and reducing the flow of cash overseas than protecting the Norwegian punter.

Clive Hawkswood of the Remote Gambling Association (RGA) is reported last year as saying: "It is difficult to believe that the aim of the proposed measures is to protect consumers and restrict gambling given the Norwegian monopoly’s appetite for recruiting new players and the extent of its marketing campaigns.

"The Norwegian authorities appear to be more motivated by the need to protect revenues from gambling, but this is not a valid justification to restrict the internal market rules."

Norway has previously been warned against taking the stance it has taken on gambling by the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), of which Norway is a member, and following implementation of its financial clampdown last year, EFTA signalled its intention to challenge restrictions imposed in this area.

Norwegian moves have previously copycatted the US Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA), which bans the facilitation of online gambling by payment companies, and has been echoed in recent weeks by debate around instigating similar measures in Finland. ®

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