December 19, 2017
Next year, the Norwegian government are to implement domestic legislation designed to rid gambling advertising from foreign satellite broadcasts.
In Norway, there is currently a ban on marketing unlicensed gambling activities, which limits gambling advertising to the promotion of the licensed or authorised activities of those entities set out in the Lottery Act, Gaming Act, Totalisator Act and their regulations. This, therefore, excludes television advertising of unlicensed foreign gambling activities to Norwegian citizens.
Because under the Audiovisual Media Services Directive (AVMSD), the country of origin principle determines that it is the broadcaster’s country of origin that dictates the relevant rules applicable to a given television channel’s advertising, it is possible (as the Norwegian’s are finding) that a channel under the jurisdiction of a Member State outside of Norway, such as the UK where gambling advertising is permitted, can legally broadcast into Norway. If the advertisement is legal under in the relevant Member State where it is licensed, it is difficult for Norwegian authorities to restrict the broadcast without violating Norway’s obligations under the Agreement on the European Economic Area 1992.
The Norwegian authorities have attempted to reduce the number of foreign gambling advertisements by using the consultation procedure in Article 4(2) of the AVMSD but in a statement from the Norwegian minister of culture last week, the latest attempt to close this loophole lies with fresh domestic legislation. It’s reported that the Norwegian Media Authority, Medietilsynet, has previously contacted its UK counterpart to request that “broadcasters [under Ofcom’s jurisdiction broadcasting channels which include gambling advertising], adhere to rules limiting the broadcast to after 9pm“. The issue with this request is that the watershed, in respect of gambling advertising, is not controlled by Ofcom but is contained within a voluntary code (Gambling Industry Code for Socially Responsible Advertising) and it is not a breach of that code to advertise gambling advertising within a live sporting event before the watershed. Whilst Medietilsynet’s investigation into Norwegian language channels that broadcast from the UK might be correct in finding “as much as 71 per cent of gambling advertising aired before 9pm“, it doesn’t mean that all of this was flouting the industry’s voluntary restriction. Clearly dissatisfied with the applicable rules and regulations in the UK, it will be interesting to see what impact Norway’s proposed legislation has next year – perhaps it will not be needed if the revised AVMSD excludes channel advertising from the country of origin principle in its amended form. If not, UK licensed broadcasters and, in particular, UK advertisers, will just have to wait and see how effective the Norwegian legislation is at thwarting this cornerstone of EU media law (and, of course, what will happen after Brexit).
 Gaming Intelligence, 19 December 2016