A panoramic view of buildings near a water body.

Kindred Exits Norway Market After Long Battle

Norwegian Gambling and Foundation Authority (NGA), the Lotteritilsynet, has recently announced that several big gaming companies operating illegally within the country’s borders will soon cease operations. The public authority is responsible for supervising and controlling all private and state-operated lotteries in Norway. The NGA carried out inspections on all the gambling operators that it suspected of providing services without a valid license in the country. The regulator did not specifically name the Kindred Group in its release, referring to it as the “company behind Unibet” instead. However, the release did reveal that the company is now in the process of withdrawing from the Norwegian market. This move comes after a years-long battle of issuing sanctions and paying daily fines for the group.

A panoramic view of buildings near a water body.

Kindred Group to leave Norway market after losing legal battle with NGA. ©Michael Fousert/Unsplash

The Norwegian Lottery Authority, also known as the Norwegian Gambling and Foundation Authority, is a public authority responsible for supervising and controlling all private and state-operated lotteries in Norway. It was established in the year 2001, to serve as a supervisory body for the administration and oversight of these lotteries. It functions under the Norwegian Gambling Scheme Act, which governs gambling within the country and includes gaming schemes related to sporting events and other activities. The main responsibility of the NGA is to ensure the integrity and fairness of lottery and gambling operations in the country. It also works to prevent money laundering and regulates advertising related to gambling. The Norwegian Gambling Scheme Act also sets out the licensing requirements for operators of lotteries and other gambling activities in the country. It aims to ensure that only reputable and trustworthy organizations are allowed to offer gambling services to Norwegian gamblers. The Norwegian Lottery Authority is also responsible for monitoring and regulating state-operated lotteries in the country. It helps to maintain a level playing field and ensure that all lottery operators adhere to the same standards of fairness and transparency. The authority also regulates advertising practices in order to protect vulnerable residents such as minors and problem gamblers from being targeted by misleading advertisements.

Kindred Group is an online gambling operator that consists of nine brands, including Unibet, Maria Casino, and 32Red. It was established in 1997 by Anders Ström, who set out to change the way players gamble. The company is registered in Malta but also has major hub offices in Gibraltar, London, Stockholm, and the US, in addition to smaller satellite offices across Europe and Australia. The group offers a range of online gaming services, including sports betting, casino games, and poker through its several subsidiaries. Kindred Group has been operating in Norway for several years but has faced legal challenges from the Norwegian Gaming Authority (NGA) over its operations in the country. Norway has a state-controlled gambling industry, with only two operators authorized to offer gambling services in the country. Private operators are not allowed to offer gambling services to Norwegian gamblers without a license from the NGA. The NGA has been cracking down on unlicensed operators in recent years, with Kindred Group being one of the companies targeted. In June 2023, the Borgarting Court of Appeal ruled that the NGA was correct to order Kindred Group to cease broadcasting its gambling services in Norway. The group has challenged the NGA’s actions in court but has so far not been successful in its appeals.

As a result, the NGA recently announced that the company has decided to withdraw its operations from the Norwegian market. Trannel International, a subsidiary of Kindred Group, has been operating in Norway for several years but has faced legal challenges from the Norwegian Gaming Authority (NGA) over its operations in the country. Trannel offers online gambling services through its Bingo, Mariacasino, Storspiller, and Unibet brands. After a long battle with the NGA that saw Kindred Group being slapped with daily fines, the decision being overturned, and the fines being reinstated in the past four years, the group has finally decided to withdraw from Norway’s market. The regulator put out a list of operators that will cease their operations in the country. It did not name the Kindred Group specifically in its release, but instead called it the “company behind Unibet.” Other notable names in the list include Betsson, ComeOn, and Bet365. Mariacasino, Storspiller, and Bingo, operators run by Kindred’s subsidiary Trannel, were also named in the list. The regulator has also warned companies that if they do not withdraw from the market before 2024, their websites will be blocked.

NGA director, Henrik Nordal opined that the move will make gambling in the Norwegian market safer.

“This is a company that is neither allowed to offer nor market gambling to Norwegians. That several of the largest gambling companies that operate illegally in Norway pull out will prevent gambling problems and contribute to a safer and more responsible gaes/2022/kindred-challenges-the-coercivet.”

A long battle for Kindred

In 2019, the Norwegian regulator found Kindred’s subsidiary, Trannel, offering gambling services illegally in the country. The NGA found out that Trannel did not have valid licenses to offer gambling services in its country. Therefore, it ordered the operator to cease its operations immediately. Failure to comply with the regulator’s order caused the matter to escalate, leading to the NGA threatening Kindred with a daily fine of NOK 1.2 million if it did not withdraw in February 2022. This led to Trannel filing a lawsuit against the regulator, citing the reason that its cease and desist order had little legal basis. However, in June 2022, Kindred lost the lawsuit against the NGA. The regulator announced that the daily fines on Kindred would begin in September of that year unless the company withdrew from the market. But that was paused due to an announcement by the group in October, that Trannel will not target Norwegian customers.

Kindred made several changes to Trannel, which included switching the language on all sites from Norwegian to English, removing Norwegian flags from websites, and changing the Storspiller name to a non-Norwegian one. However, the changes were deemed insufficient by the NGA and the daily fines were reinstated in November 2022. Kindred continued to appeal in the courts and the fines paused again in December. The matter came to a head in June 2023, when the Borgarting Court of Appeal ruled in favour of the regulator stating that it was correct in issuing the cease and desist order to Kindred.

NGA is concerned about illegal advertising

Recently, the Norwegian Gambling Authority revealed that it was concerned about its residents being exposed to illegal gambling advertising. This could potentially lead to an increase in underage and problematic gambling in the country. One of the main objectives of the NGA is to ensure safe gambling and protect vulnerable individuals like minors and problem gamblers from the adverse effects of the gambling industry.

However, a recent investigation by the Norwegian Media Authority revealed that more than 6 out of 10 people aged 13-18 had been exposed to advertising for gambling online. The release said that foreign gaming companies had been marketing their games in Norway for many years, without being allowed to either market or offer games in Norway. The NGA is particularly concerned about illegal companies’ use of influencers which could give rise to problematic gambling. In 2023, the NGA has stepped up its efforts to curb untargeted advertising on social media. It has issued a warning to influencers and other gambling ambassadors that they will be fined if they break the new Money Gambling Act.

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Author: James Richardson