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Can Norway’s payment ban be legally challenged?

Not everybody is aware of the legal challenges that Norway is facing nowadays for its very controversial law that it passed in late 2018. The Nordic country banned any and all payments made to unverified gaming websites outside of its jurisdiction, even including payment methods such as the decentralized Peer to peer cryptocurrency transactions.

Although it sounds like a completely legit thing to do from a country’s government, one needs to consider the economic region that Norway is located. The European Economic Area, that encompasses most of Europe, has a free gaming market, which Norway is disrupting with its new law, therefore it is facing some allegations from organizations such as the European Gambling and Betting Association.

The allegations are targeted at the country’s seemingly monopolistic gaming market and aversion towards Norwegian bookmakers, which is something unimaginable in a region like Europe, but Norway is among the two countries that don’t introduce a free market.

The same issues have been discussed with Germany, but it had introduced a free market law not too long ago, which has now expired. Norway, on the other hand, has never had such a market in the latest decades.

This case with Norway has left many law experts wondering if the country can actually introduce such a law, while others are wondering if the EGBA has the authority to criticize a sovereign nation about it. Let’s try and dig deep.

The Norwegian monopoly

As already mentioned before, Norway is notorious for its monopolistic ways in the gambling industry, which make it a rather unique European nation after Sweden decided to opt out of the legislative framework.

The topic had been discussed several times by European courts, where the Norwegian monopoly was “put on trial” for going against the free market laws that govern the European Economic Area.

However, “the trial” concluded that the monopolistic framework of operating gambling activities within Norway was a strategy of combating addiction rather than pursuing monetary gain. Therefore, it leads us all to believe that Norway did indeed fall within the ramifications of European law.

So why is the EGBA so vocal about its protests?

Within the justification from the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU), it was mentioned that games of chance like sports betting and casinos are much more controllable when they are on a national level.

Meaning that the fraudulent activities of online operators are completely avoided if the country nationalizes the market and restricts the operations to only a select few companies. In Norway’s case, that happened to be two state-owned entities.

Although the EGBA tries to argue against the payment ban as well as the monopoly from a free market standpoint, it’s obvious that the notion from CJEU can still be challenged with arguments about regulation.

The introduction and implementation of a nation-wide gaming regulation would prevent any and all fraudulent activities within the borders of said jurisdiction. 

However, then we’re left with the addiction argument, where Norway has a clear upper hand thanks to the CJEU backing and the compatibility with the EEA agreement.

Overall, the Norwegian payment ban and gambling monopoly cannot be challenged with EEA laws, however, it can indeed be taken into account should Norway join the EU, but at that point, they will simply be at the stage where Germany is in its laws on games of chance.

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