No other nation can boast as big a pot of poker winnings as Norway on the European Poker Tour (EPT). Newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) followed the tour to Barcelona, where tour officials at an opening party announced that Norwegian players have won more than their counterparts from Spain, Finland, Lebanon and Germany.
Norwegian players who had gathered in Barcelona proudly placed their trophy on their table and the champagne flowed, but there were no congratulatory calls from the prime minister. It’s illegal to play poker for money in Norway, where all gaming is regulated through Norsk Tipping and Norsk Rikstoto. Playing poker on the Internet in Norway isn’t allowed.
That hasn’t stopped an estimated 350,000 from playing poker internationally, though, and a large, unregulated market has developed in recent years. It’s not illegal to play on the international websites, over which Norwegian authorities have no control. Winners are expected to declare their earnings and pay tax on them.
Now pressure is growing to allow poker playing for money in Norway as well. “The poker ban in Norway is ridiculous,” Thor Hansen, viewed as the godfather of Norwegian poker and a three-times world champion, told DN. “I’m certain it would raise more money for Norwegian athletics and culture if it was legalized.”
Only the Progress Party (Fremskrittspartiet, Frp) and the Liberal Party (Venstre) are in favour of legalizing poker in Norway. Labour (Arbeiderpartiet, Ap) is opposed, fearing it will drain funds away from Norway’s legal betting monopolies and addict players. There wasn’t enough support within the Conservative Party (Høyre) to revoke the ban, but poker fans are lobbying for it.