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Norway asking banks how they block payments to int’l gambling sites

Norway’s gambling regulator is conducting a survey of how local banks block transactions involving online gambling operators the government doesn’t like.

On Wednesday, the Lotteritilsynet regulatory agency announced that it was conducting a survey of 170 banks to determine how they “stop cash premiums and deposits from illegal foreign gaming companies, and what kind of approach the banks and financial institutions have to gambling problems.”

Lotteritilsynet senior adviser Silje Sægrov Amble said the regulator wants to determine if banks’ current systems enable them to properly impede financial transfers to and from internationally licensed online gambling operators who compete with the state-run Norsk Tipping and Norsk Rikstoto monopolies.

The regulator also wants to know what practices the banks employ if/when they detect that one of their customers is gambling with unauthorized sites and whether they inform these customers of the controversial gambling payment ban that took effect in January.

The regulator will use the information gleaned from this survey to “limit the illegal gambling offer” and “come up with measures that prevent and reduce the damage caused by gambling problems.” Amble assured banks that the survey would be anonymous and wouldn’t be used to track down and punish financial institutions whose systems may not be up to scratch.

The University of Bergen recently published a study that showed an increase in the country’s number of problem gamblers from 34k in 2015 to 55k today. Industry groups like the Norsk Bransjeforening for Onlinespill and the European Gaming & Betting Association used this study to urge Norway’s government to rethink its online monopoly model, which the groups claim is preventing proper monitoring of online gambling behavior.

Norway’s problem gambling association Spillavhengighet Norge is currently conducting a study on whether the monopoly model is the best way for the country to protect problem gamblers. The results of this study aren’t expected to be released until next year.

For the moment, Norway’s government appears uninterested in such discussions, more focused on preserving its state monopoly. Last month, legislators granted the Medietilsynet media watchdog greater authority to impose financial penalties on internet service providers and broadcasters who fail to prohibit marketing by international sites.

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