Norway reveals weaknesses in blocking payments for international gambling transactions

Norwegian Minister of Culture Abid Raja has confirmed that the Norwegian Gaming Authority (NGA) cannot prevent players from using their own bank accounts to play with international operators.

Norwegian MP Himanshu Gulati asked if the NGA can make decisions that affect Norwegian citizens about using their own accounts or international bank accounts (EMI).

When questioned, Raja said: “The Gambling Supervision Authority [NGA] does not have decision-making power to prevent Norwegian citizens from using their own bank or EMI accounts.

“It does not depend on where the account is registered, in Norway or abroad.

“However, gambling regulators can order Norwegian banks and financial institutions to refuse online gambling transactions that do not have a local license,” Raja added.

The NGA has an aggressive policy of preventing Norwegian players from accessing unlicensed gambling sites by targeting Norwegian banks and issuing block payments orders.

The Norwegian Ministry of Culture first introduced payment blocking measures against offshore online gambling operators in June 2010 and has followed up on these initial measures with subsequent bans, most recently in May 2019.

This latter prohibition applies to payment transactions between unlicensed operators and other companies that carry out payment transactions on behalf of unlicensed operators.

Consecutive legal challenges have focused on the contention that blocking payments violates EU law and the freedom to provide goods and services without restriction.

Discussing the scope of the NGA's authority to issue blocking orders, Raja said: “These orders cannot prevent citizens from making payments from their own account for transactions not related to illegal gambling.

“In the scenario where customers are unable to use their account, this is not due to Norwegian oversight of the game, but, for example, because the bank, based on its own terms and conditions, has decided to close that account.

“However, this is not something the gaming authorities are involved in,” Raja added.