The British online gambling giant, Kindred, has experienced a debilitating setback as it lost its appeal case against the Norwegian gambling regulator, Borgarting Court of Appeal, on June 5, 2023. In a culmination of a protracted dispute, the court endorsed the regulator’s decision demanding Kindred to halt broadcasting unlicensed gambling services in Norway.
Regulatory Grit Upheld
As the latest episode in Kindred’s ongoing battle with Norway’s regulatory authorities over its grey market operations, the court upheld the state’s stance on all counts. Kindred, operating in Norway through its subsidiary, Trannel, was served a double whammy – the court’s rejection of its appeal and an order to cover the Ministry of Culture and Equality’s legal expenses for the case.
The director of the Lotteries and Foundations Authority, Alte Hamar, responded positively to the verdict. He emphasised that the ruling underlines that substantial international gaming corporations must comply with Norwegian law and cease providing unlicensed gambling services. Hamar further asserted the sturdy and well-established position of their efforts in eradicating illegal companies from Norway’s market.
Moreover, the judgment cemented the regulator’s decision to stop illegal gambling offers as the correct move. The expectation now is for Kindred to withdraw fully from the Norwegian market.
The State’s Victory and Kindred’s Consequences
Anette Trettebergstuen, the Minister of Culture and Equality, corroborated this by stating that the court of appeal has affirmed the Norwegian exclusive rights model aligns with EEA law. She suggested that the verdict was hardly surprising, as it joined a series of lawsuits where the state has consistently been fully supported.
The original order for Kindred to stop offering online gambling services to Norwegian consumers dates back to April 2019. Despite its advertised efforts towards responsible gaming, the Swedish firm has been active in the country through its Unibet, Mariacasino, Storspiller and Bingo portals in non-compliant ways.
Post-decision, the regulator imposed a daily NOK1.2m (£88,000/$110,000/€100,000) fine on Kindred until the operator halted its activities in Norway.
Implications for the iGaming Industry
The fallout from Kindred’s loss in Norway is significant, with far-reaching implications for the iGaming industry:
- Tighter Regulation Compliance: The ruling reaffirms that international gaming corporations must comply with local regulations, even in grey markets. This could lead to increased scrutiny and compliance measures across the iGaming industry.
- Legal Precedent: The decision sets a legal precedent, potentially emboldening other countries to enforce stricter controls on unlicensed gaming activities. This could spur similar lawsuits, disrupting operations in other markets.
- Business Model Re-evaluation: Companies operating in grey markets may need to reassess their business models. The financial implications from fines and legal costs may push them to seek licenses or consider withdrawing from such markets.