The Norwegian Lottery Board (Lotterinemnda) confirmed the ban on operations of Kindred Group’s subsidiary company, Trannel International, therefore the operator cannot henceforth offer online gambling on the Norwegian market.
The body attached to the Norwegian Ministry of Culture, which reviews operator complaints, rejected Kindred’s appeal against the ruling issued in April last year by the Norwegian gaming regulator Lotteri-og Stiftelsestilsynet (Lotteritilsynet).
The decision forces the operator to suspend its operations in the country, after being accused of illegally registering Norwegian players at the Unibet, Storspiller, BingoLottstift and Maria Casino sites. The wine ban after the Norwegian regulator imposed a payment blocking order on sites operated by Kindred and six other operators.
Lotteritilsynet specified that the blocked websites were in the Norwegian language, with both deposits and bonds being delivered in Norwegian currency, in addition to the operator offering customer support also in Norwegian.
On the other hand, Kindred promoted its gaming offers through television commercials broadcast in Norway, but they were broadcast on international channels. It also used Norwegian support, Norwegian social networks and channels, as well as Norwegian press releases.
Kindred had to remove Norwegian advertising and image services from its site to avoid blocking by internet service providers, the regulator had announced.
The operator was ordered to stop advertising in local media, avoid using local public figures to promote the business, and no longer process deposits or withdrawals in Norweigan Krone. Nor do we need to use payment solutions specifically for the Norwegian market.
The regulator said Kindred has been operating several sites where local players participated, and considered that the operator controlled the registration of Norwegian players at the Storspiller, Unibet, BingoLottstift and Maria Casino sites.
Kindred had announced that it would appeal the ruling in both instances, in the Ministry of Culture and in Lotterinemnda.
Following the ruling, the operator argued that regulator Lotteritilsynet was inconsistent in its references regarding the game directed “at Norway” or the game it runs “in Norway”. It specified that the regulator could not decide on the games that are offered from Malta, because that interfered with the sovereignty of another nation.
Kindred also argued that Norsk Tipping has the exclusive right to offer certain games and lotteries, so preventing it represented a limitation on the free movement of services.
Lotterinemnda’s ruling finally proved regulator Lotteritilsynet right, based on suggestions from the Datakrimutvalget. This state committee is charged with developing and promoting best practices to combat cybercrime, including online gambling.
In 2007 the Committee wrote:
“In normal cases where a website is made by foreigners abroad and published on a foreign server, this will be outside of Norwegian jurisdiction.”
“Exceptions to this principle can be envisaged if, for example, there are sites that are specifically designed for use in Norway and where the negative consequences manifest themselves mainly or exclusively here,” it added.
Datakrimutvalget’s recommendation further explains that:
“An example is websites with game services that are marketed directly on the Norwegian market, for example, when the site has Norwegian text. This could be considered a crime that has been committed abroad, but has an effect in Norway and therefore should be punished here where the effect occurs.”
The Norwegian Lottery Board noted that if such jurisdiction applies abroad to law enforcement, it should equally apply to regulators.
Therefore, Kindred’s argument about the interference of the decision in Maltese sovereignty was rejected, because in Lotterinemnda’s opinion it did not withstand the slightest scrutiny.
“Lotterinemnda also does not believe that Lotteritilsynet’s decision interferes with the sovereignty of another state. The relevant websites will continue to exist and may still be directed to customers in other countries where such gambling activities are permitted,” it said.
On the other hand, Lotterinemnda said that it had already ruled in the past on Norsk Tipping’s exclusive rights model so “it cannot see that there are circumstances that warrant a different assessment today.”
Kindred’s request was rejected by the Ministry of Culture in early January this year and so far has not commented on the ruling.
Trude Felde, senior advisor to Lotteritilsynet, reported that the Norwegian regulator will now ask the operator whether or not to comply with the ruling.
According to Felde, the ruling confirmed that the ban on offshore operators should target online gambling sites that explicitly adapted their offerings to register Norwegian customers.
“This is an important confirmation that we are interpreting the regulations correctly,” he said.