Norwegian gaming authority imposes 'forced' fine on Oslo-based SEO agency

The Norwegian Gambling Authority (NGA) has imposed a first-of-its-kind “forced” fine on Oslo-based SEO company SEO-Butler for marketing illegal gambling sites in Norway.

NGA regulators first identified illegal marketing on 17 firm-operated web pages in December 2020 and ordered SEO-Butler to stop marketing to Norwegian players.

The NGA later reminded the firm to stop marketing those sites in March 2021 and warned SEO-Butler that it would impose a fine to enforce the order.

In April, SEO-Butler confirmed that all 17 sites had been blocked for Norwegian IP addresses and would not be accessible to Norwegian players.

However, a subsequent investigation by the NGA found that while most of the sites were blocked, four identified sites were still accessible to Norwegian consumers.

"SEO-Butler has repeatedly become aware of marketing infringements and distribution bans," writes the NGA.

“The NGA takes repeat rule violations seriously, even after the subject knows which specific instances are considered rule violations.

“Furthermore, SEO-Butler appears on several occasions to have complied with an order to stop illegal business,” the NGA added.

Under the Norwegian Lottery Act, broadcasters, newspapers, radio stations and online marketing firms are prohibited from selling illegal online gambling operators to players, even if it is not registered as paid marketing.

Coercive fines serve as motivation to follow orders and are not a punishment under Norwegian law. If the order is executed on time, a compulsory fine cannot be imposed. Penalties are designed to eliminate any financial benefit to the offending firm, while not being “unreasonably” high.

“Based on the nature of this case, the NGA believes that the illegal activity is of such a nature, scope and severity that a decision to enforce a fine would be a necessary tool to stop business,” the regulator explained.

The NGA imposed a mandatory fine of NOK 2,000 (£170) per day starting May 25 until the rest of the sites are unavailable to Norwegian players.

However, the enforcement fine will cease to apply once it reaches the maximum amount of NOK 200,000 (£16,000).