PokerStars has officially announced its departure from the Norwegian market, becoming the latest in a string of operators to make this decision.
Last week, the company initiated the process of informing its Norwegian clientele about its impending exit, setting the stage for the discontinuation of its online poker services on the 26th of October.
This decision aligns PokerStars with its fellow competitors, including bet365, Kindred (owner of Unibet Poker), ComeOn, and Betsson, all of whom have already made their exits from the Norwegian market. When pressed on the reasons behind this move, PokerStars cited ‘commercial reasons’ as the driving force. Norwegian customers have been advised to close their accounts and withdraw any remaining funds.
The backdrop to this wave of operator exits can be traced back to developments in Norway’s gambling regulatory landscape.
Norway’s Gambling Authority, known as Lottstift, issued a stern directive in September, signaling the end for unlicensed operators and warning of severe financial consequences for those who refused to comply.
Lottstift’s crosshairs were primarily fixed on 15 websites, many of which were operated by Kindred, Betsson, and ComeOn, though notably absent from their list was any mention of PokerStars. This new ruling bestowed Lottstift with direct authority to block IP access to illicit websites and enforce a cessation of financial transactions between Norwegian banks and unlicensed operators.
Before this directive came into effect, Lottstift had been embroiled in numerous legal battles with European operators who challenged the regulatory rules, asserting that they unfairly favored Norsk Tipping and Rikstoto’s monopoly practices, thereby infringing upon EU competition laws.
Lottstift’s Director, Henrik Nordal, regarded September’s announcement as a resounding victory for Norway, effectively putting an end to the activities of unlicensed operators, who will no longer be able to target the nation’s consumers.
PokerStars was part of The Stars Group (TSG) until being sold to Flutter Entertainment, owner of Irish gambling company Paddy Power, on May 5th 2020.