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PR(05)36: The Authority brings the Norwegian gaming machine monopoly before the EFTA Court

18.11.2005

The EFTA Surveillance Authority has decided to bring the introduction of the Norwegian gaming machine monopoly before the EFTA Court. With this decision, the Authority maintains its position as expressed in its earlier reasoned opinion. The Norwegian Government has decided not to comply with that opinion. It is the Authority’s view that the introduction of the Norwegian gaming machine monopoly raises important questions of EEA law that ought to be assessed on a European level by the EFTA Court.

In parallel with the Authority’s proceedings, the issue of the legality of the monopoly has been pending before the Norwegian Courts. Concurring with the Authority’s reasoned opinion, Oslo Tingrett concluded on 27 October 2004 that Norwegian law was contrary to the EEA Agreement. On 26 August 2005, Borgarting Lagmannsrett reversed that judgment. That decision was appealed to the Norwegian Supreme Court. On 17 October 2005, the Supreme Court decided not to request an advisory opinion from the EFTA Court.

A gaming machine monopoly is a restriction on the freedom of establishment and the freedom to provide services. According to the EEA Agreement, such restrictions are permissible only if the State in question shows that it 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 a wish to prevent gambling addiction is laudable. However, in the Authority’s view the Norwegian Government has not shown that its gaming policy is systematic and consistent enough to justify restrictions of the basic freedoms provided for by the EEA Agreement. Moreover, the Authority regards the legislation to be contrary to the principle of proportionality, as the objectives pursued by the enactment of the legislation could have been reached by less restrictive means, e.g. imposing more stringent conditions on the private operators running gaming machines today.

For further information, please contact: Niels Fenger, Director of Legal & Executive Affairs, Tel. (+32)(0)2 286 18 30.

18 November 2005




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