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PR(04)10: Infringement proceedings initiated against Norway with regard to the introduction of a monopoly for Norsk Tipping on the operation of gaming machines

23.4.2004

The EFTA Surveillance Authority sent a letter of formal notice to Norway today regarding the introduction of a monopoly for Norsk Tipping AS on the operation of gaming machines.

On 17 June 2003, the Norwegian Parliament adopted legislation aimed at granting the state-owned gaming company Norsk Tipping a monopoly on the operation of gaming machines. Gaming machines are currently run by private operators and charitable organizations under a license system. According to Norway, the new regime is mainly motivated by the wish to combat gambling addiction and prevent crime. Further, a monopoly situation is considered easier to control and regulate. 

Article 36 of the EEA Agreement ensures the right of service providers to operate throughout the entire EEA without restrictions. Similarly, the freedom of establishment guarantees that legal and natural persons who wish to take up business in another EEA State are not prevented from doing so by the host state. Limitations on these freedoms may be accepted only if the State in question shows that the restriction imposed is non-discriminatory, justified by imperative requirements in the general interest, suitable for achieving the objective which it pursues and does not go beyond what is necessary in order to attain it.

The Authority does not dispute that the wish to reduce gambling addiction and combat crime are laudable aims which may, potentially, justify a restriction to a fundamental freedom. However, in light of case law, the Authority questions the extent to which considerations of an economic nature have motivated the choice of a model with Norsk Tipping as a sole operator. Furthermore, the Authority cannot see that the Norwegian Government has shown that its general gaming policy is systematic and consistent enough to justify a restriction to the free provision of services and the freedom of establishment as far as the operation of gaming machines is concerned. In this context, it is noted, inter alia, that consumers are encouraged to play different games and that the Norwegian State, through Norsk Tipping, has lately increased the number of available games and means of gaming.

With regard to other possibly legitimate aims, the Authority is not convinced that a monopoly is necessary in order to prevent gambling addiction or under-age gambling, to control software, to introduce new regulations more quickly, or to combat crime. It appears that the same effects could be achieved by less restrictive means, e.g. by imposing stricter rules on the private operators.

A letter of formal notice is the first stage in the Authority’s formal infringement procedures against a Member State. The Government of Norway is requested to submit their observations within two months.

For further information, please contact Mr. Jónas Fr. Jónsson (Director, Internal Market Affairs Directorate), tel. (+32)(0)2 286 18 60.

23 April 2004




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