Offshore Ad Row Burns On In Norway

February 28, 2022
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The Norwegian Gambling Authority has piled further pressure on defiant TV network Discovery over offshore gambling adverts, even as stats show unlicensed ads have fallen overall.

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The Norwegian Gambling Authority has piled further pressure on defiant TV network Discovery over offshore gambling adverts, even as stats show unlicensed ads have fallen overall.

Data published by Nielsen Media Research for the period August 2020 to July 2021 shows that advertising for foreign gambling operators fell by 35 percent, although ads for Norway’s monopoly operators also dropped by 27 percent.

The big fall in offshore ads was mostly attributed to an amendment to the Broadcasting Act that took effect from January 1, 2021, allowing the Norwegian Media Authority to go after broadcasters that show adverts for unlicensed gambling companies.

However, foreign gambling companies still account for 72 percent of all gambling ads on Norwegian TV, said the gambling regulator.

Norway’s sizable offshore gambling market is believed to account for around 50 percent of online gambling in the country. The operators that populate the sector, based mainly out of Malta, argue they are operating legally under European Economic Area free trade laws.

That view is firmly rejected by Norwegian authorities. Earlier this month, the authority warned Kindred that it faced daily fines unless it stopped offering gambling to Norwegian residents.

The authority aimed the bulk of the blame for offshore dominance of the airwaves squarely at TV network Discovery. It said the network had ignored the will of parliament in continuing to advertise unlicensed operators.

Another major TV firm active in Norway, Sweden’s NENT Group, did comply with the request to stop offshore ads from the start of 2021. In an assessment carried out in April by the media authority, the body said it had observed no breach of the regulations by NENT Group.

On the other hand, the authority said it had documented TV ads for Unibet, Betsson, Nordicbet and Betsafe on Discovery channels and encouraged the network “to show social responsibility” and start complying with the law.

In June last year, the media regulator followed up with a warning that it was building a case that would force TV firms broadcasting Discovery channels to block offshore ads.

The authority named distributors Telenor, Telia, RiksTV, Canal Digital, VCB (Viasat) and Altibox as having received a notification that enforcement action could be forthcoming.

The distributors were to be given time to present their views, but the authority said it did not believe it would be technically or financially challenging to block the offending ads.

The Nielsen data reported by the gambling regulator last week appeared to support that argument. Despite the overall drop in gambling ads, investment in advertising actually rose during the first half of 2021.

Despite issuing its warning in June, the media authority has yet to take any definite action.

In his update on February 25, Norwegian Gambling Authority director Atle Hamer said the media regulator was still “working to assess whether there is a basis for ordering the TV distributors to remove the gambling advertisement on Discovery's TV channels”, but said he expects it to reach a decision in the first quarter of this year.

VIXIO sought comment from Discovery, but received no response before time of publication.

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