Publish: 2023-10-24 15:09:39
PokerStars has recently announced another significant change to its brand’s offering. The brand will withdraw from Norway due to commercial reasons. Norway has a long history of state gambling monopolies. It seems their efforts to remove offshore casinos from their country are paying off with PokerStars. We dive into the reasons behind this decision and how it’ll affect PokerStars in the near future.
In Norway, the gambling market is mostly dominated by two state monopolies. These monopolies are Norsk Rikstoto and Norks Tipping. For some time now, these brands have the exclusive legal right to offer gambling services to Norwegian players. However, while they offer sports betting, bingo, and casino games, online poker isn’t part of the line-up.
This left the market open to offshore brands like PokerStars, GGPoker, and 888poker. Due to the European Union laws of free trade, offshore brands managed to bypass the Norwegian monopoly.
These brands stated that Norway’s exclusion of offshore brands directly contradicts this law. So, they managed to avoid any legal repercussions. Despite the continued presence of offshore casinos, Norway continued discouraging these brands. They blocked gambling sites, financial transactions, and TV commercials featuring offshore brands.
Norway’s gambling regulator, Lottstift, has recently started to crack down even harder on offshore sites. The regulator announced that starting in 2024, it’ll have new powers to DNS block offshore online casinos. However, there’s a chance this decision was made since the regulator will announce new gambling laws. These laws might allow offshore operators to acquire a legal Norwegian gambling license.
Regardless of the reasons for the stricter measures, PokerStars’ response was to withdraw from Norway. The poker brand announced that it’ll shut down its online products for Norwegian players on October 26.
This decision also came after Flutter’s (previously The Stars Group) statement in 2019. The group stated that five “disrupted” markets totalled 16% of the group’s revenue. Along with Norway, the other countries are Russia, Slovakia, Netherlands, and Switzerland. PokerStars left these markets but have come back to Slovakia and Switzerland.
However, this withdrawal came after a period where the previous poker king also withdrew from various other markets. These markets include many Asian and smaller European countries.
The impact of leaving so many jurisdictions can clearly be seen, as PokerStars’ cash game traffic is the lowest it’s ever been. The brand’s cash game traffic has been steadily decreasing. In the last month, the provider hit a 3,050 average of concurrent cash game traffic over seven days.
Meanwhile, GGPoker has set new records for its cash game traffic. The brand has around triple the figures that PokerStars are currently showing. It’ll likely become even more as PokerStars’ cash game traffic takes a dip after withdrawing from Norway.
It remains to be seen whether PokerStars’ decision to withdraw from Norway will have a significant or modest impact. If Norway decides to allow legal offshore gambling, we might see a licensed and regulated brand return. However, it’s unknown whether it’ll happen. Meanwhile, players will still have access to their accounts and funds and be able to withdraw their money.