Strong Criticism from Kindred Group Against Norway’s Gambling Monopoly
Norway’s gambling monopoly is facing criticism from Kindred Group for granting an exclusive race betting monopoly to government-owned entity Norsk Rikstoto. Kindred, an international gambling operator, filed a lawsuit in September 2020 arguing that the exclusive license should have been open to competition according to public procurement rules and European Economic Area (EEA) agreements.
Kindred is challenging the lack of competition in obtaining the license, rather than the exclusive nature of the license itself. They argue that the absence of a tender process prevented other operators from competing.
The Oslo District Court is seeking guidance from the European Free Trade on EU directives and their applicability to awarding exclusive contracts to non-profit groups. Norway, as a member of the EEA but not the EU, is defending Norsk Rikstoto’s exclusive permit, stating that it is not only legal but also compliant with EEA law. The Ministry of Culture and Equality supports this position, stating that the exclusive permit is necessary for strong public control and is not considered a public contract covered by procurement regulations.
Norsk Rikstoto’s monopoly has recently been extended for 10 years, which is likely disappointing news for Kindred. The company has previously faced fines and legal proceedings for offering online gambling to Norwegian residents. The Norwegian Gambling Authority has temporarily suspended fines for both Kindred Group and Betsson, another operator, while reviewing their plans for complying with the court ruling.
Other operators, including Bet365 and ComeOn Group, have also been cautioned by the Norwegian Gambling Authority for similar offenses that could result in regulatory action.