What lessons can be learnt from Norway ban on Pokies since 2007? - Electronic gaming machines: what lessons from Norway?
Amanda Biggs - Social Policy Section, Australian Parliament

In July 2007, in response to ongoing concerns over the harms from problem gambling the Norwegian government banned all Electronic Gaming Machines (EGMs) —then known as slot machines—from Norway.

In January 2009, new gaming machines—known as video lottery terminals (VLTs)—were introduced into Norway under the sole control of Norsk Tipping, the government operator. These VLTs were configured with features to make them less harmful, including:
1.    a mandatory limit on the amount players could gamble,
2.    mandatory breaks in play,
3.    lower bets,
4.    lower prizes; and
5.    player exclusion options

Gamblers could no longer insert cash to play the Video Lottery Terminals - VLTs, but instead were required to use a player card. All VLTs were to be connected to a central server. These new machines have become increasingly popular; the number of active players rose from 85 000 in 2009 to over 99 000 in 2010.5

As the new VLTs continue to be rolled out across Norway, new evidence on their impact on reducing problem gambling will no doubt emerge. Based on how the debate around MPC has already progressed in Australia, it is likely that any further evidence from Norway will continue to be contested by those on both sides. Although the gambling environment in Norway was, and remains, materially different to the Australian situation, nevertheless Norway offers other valuable lessons for policy makers.

A distinction should be drawn between interactive gambling which is prohibited, and other forms of online gambling which are legal. Interactive gambling involves online gaming on casino games (Blackjack, Baccarat, Roulette), all forms of poker and virtual gaming machines. Placing bets or wagering via the internet is permitted.
19. The Productivity Commission (PC) cited a range of survey data on participation rates for online gambling. Most surveys it cited found a participation rate of between 0.1 and 1.0 per cent of the population had played casino type games on the internet. Productivity Commission, op. cit., p. 15.15.

Firstly, the reduction in harm from gambling following the Electronic Gaming Machine ban in Norway strongly suggests that Electronic Gaming Machines were significant contributors to these harms, and helps justify arguments for greater Electronic Gaming Machine controls. Given that the type of Electronic Gaming Machine that was banned displayed less intense game play features than those available in Australia, will add weight to this view.

That Norway successfully replaced its popular slot machines with VLTs configured to reduce harm, but which have still proven popular among players, may also reinforce the view that greater controls on Electronic Gaming Machines can be achieved without significantly diminishing player enjoyment.

The fact that the Norwegian government successfully imposed greater controls on its slot machines, in the face of sustained industry opposition, demonstrates the capacity of governments to successfully overcome vested interests. This may also strengthen the resolve of those seeking similar reforms in Australia.
A further lesson to note from Norway is that the trend to online gambling will continue, regardless of whether or not MPC is implemented here.

As the online environment Australian gamblers play in is largely beyond the reach of Australian authorities, the trend towards internet gambling presents a particular challenge for policy makers, most notably, how to minimise harm and support responsible gambling initiatives. But more reliable data will be needed in order to respond appropriately to this challenge.

Finally, the sustained industry campaign opposing the reforms in Norway, which included a number of (ultimately unsuccessful) legal challenges, suggests that progressing gaming machine reform in Australia is likely to require a sustained effort. Although the government argues it has the power to legislate to impose MPC if the states and territories do not cooperate,20 the prospect of legal challenges ahead must be factored into consideration.
Meanwhile, harms from problem gambling will continue to accrue, and calls to limit these will likely continue if Electronic Gaming Machine reform remains unaddressed.

VLT -   Video Lottery Terminal

EGM -  Electronic Gaming Machines - In July 2007, in response to ongoing concerns over the harms from problem gambling the Norwegian government banned all electronic gaming machines—then known as slot machines—from Norway.

MPC -  Slot machine players must pre-set the amount they are prepared to lose before they gamble. The introduction of MPC on EGMs was also a key recommendation of the Aust. Productivity Commission in its 2010 report into gambling, albeit allowing a longer implementation time frame. Debate around this proposal has intensified, particularly since Clubs Australia commenced its publicity campaign to oppose the reforms.

15. Jonny Engebø, op. cit.
16. Productivity Commission, Gambling, Canberra, PC, 2010, p. 11.7, p. 11.31, p. 11.50, viewed 10 November 2011,
17. The Productivity Commission argued in favour of maintaining the principle of consumer sovereignty in approaches to gambling regulation. Ibid, p. 20.
18. Under the Interactive Gambling Act 2001 (IGA).The IGA prohibits the provision of interactive gambling services to customers in Australia and the advertising of these.