Norway and gambling have never really seen eye to eye. The practise is largely illegal in the country, and has been for many years. It is notoriously hard to track down a casino in Norway, and even more difficult to find a Norwegian online betting site or app. Why exactly the Norwegian authorities are so against gambling is hard to pin down, but their conservative stance remains unshakable, even in the face of an explosion of online gambling popularity across the rest of the world. Norway are not part of the EU, and therefore not subject to the same rules and regulations as the rest of the members; therefore, they’re pretty much allowed to set any laws they want.

(Ad) Their authority has been tested recently, however. Online gambling is illegal in Norway, apart from two state-licensed brokers: Norsk Riskoto for horse racing, and Norsk Tipping for lotteries, sports betting and poker. Beyond that, every single betting site in the world is prohibited, at least in theory; in reality, there are very few repercussions if Norwegian players access and play on premiere betting sites. The authorities prefer to take aim at the payment scheme and software that allows sites from outside the country to accept money from Norwegian players. These crackdown attempts have accelerated in the past few years, to combat the surging popularity of online gambling; however, these measures might just constitute a breach in privacy for Norway’s citizens.

The European Gaming and Betting Association has recently demanded that the Norwegian Data Protection Authority investigate a long-standing online payment blocking scheme that has potentially been invading Norwegian’s privacy. In general terms, the EGBA is contesting something known as the Norwegian Payment Blocking Regulation, which prohibits payment service providers from carrying out transactions through sites that aren’t licensed by (the extremely strict) Norwegian gambling regulator. It claims that the regulator obtained sensitive information regarding seven key accounts in a manner which violated the privacy laws.

Under the same complaint, the EGBA also raised concerns that the Norwegian Gaming and Foundation Authority (or the NGFA for short) accessing private information about residents was also a breach of privacy rights as they’re set out under the European Convention of Human Rights. Essentially the EGBA are saying that Norway’s gambling laws are seriously outmoded, and do not square with the reality of digital interaction as it is today. Despite numerous calls to reform the laws, Norwegian authorities dug their heels in as early as late 2016, when the affirmed their intention to continue the state-run monopoly on real life and online gambling.

How this accusation from the EGBA will eventually play out remains to be seen. There’s no doubt that Norway’s laws are strangely draconian in nature and should really be adjusted to suit the needs and wants of the players in their country. Will this potential human rights violation will be the force of change for the country’s gambling industry? Only time will tell. But at the very least, it will be a stark reminder to government and citizens alike that the country is severely out of step with the rest of the European gambling sector.