The rise, fall and resurrection of slot machines in Norway

When Norway banned slot machines in 2007, it took five years for the market to recover and to reach the same levels. And that’s despite the introduction of heavily regulated Interactive Video Terminals (IVTs), which turned out to be probably the least fun gambling activity known to man. In this article we’ll examine the historical facts regarding machine betting in Norway and how did they shape today’s gambling landscape in the country. The story is quite extraordinary and can serve as an example.

Slot machine total ban of 2007

Before 1 July 2007, there were around 15,000 slot machines in public places in Norway, and they were the old style slot machines, nothing fancy. Your usual brandless three-reel Jackpot slots. They accepted and paid coins (until 1 July 2006 they also accepted banknotes), maximum bet was 10 NOK (€1.25), maximum win per game round 2000 NOK (€250), and there was an age limit of 18 years but no registered play.

On 1 July 2007 all those slots were removed and not a single one was left in the country, and soon afterwards an independent research by SINTEF brought slot machines in connection with sleep disorders, depression and anxiety, and therefore justified the state-orchestrated move that eventually saw the introduction of Interactive Video Terminals.

Interactive Video Terminals (IVTs)

Despite the obvious emergence of online gambling, Norway took a step back and developed Interactive Video Terminals (IVTs) in 2009 to provide people with access to a land-based gambling machine, similar to what people in the UK know as FOBTs (Fixed odds betting terminals). The machine is heavily restricted, and a person needs a card to start the machine. These machines are also known by the brand name Multix, and are developed by state-owned Norsk Tipping. Sometimes, the IVT would be a copy of some slot machine.

These machines have 5x higher maximum bet of 50 NOK (€6), as well as a smaller maximum win per game round of 1500 (€190). Everything is centralized as one central server handles all data and imposes global loss limits of 400 NOK (€50) per day or/and 2200 NOK (€280) per month, as well as personal limits. The game itself is cashless as the player uses the card to play the IVT, and tops it up as needed. There’s a mandatory 10-minute break after an hour of playing.

There is no data regarding the theoretical payout of IVTs, but data suggests that these are at least as bad for the player as the slot machines, if not worse. The gambling revenue dropped to 1/5 of former levels, but with a 1/10 reduction in Norwegians’ participation in the game. Participation was stable around 20% for slot machines, it dropped to around 2% in 2009 and 2010 for IVTs as few people even bothered to play, yet revenue hasn’t dropped ten-fold but five-fold.

IVT revenue consistantly dropped towards the end of the month – because people start hitting their monthly limits and couldn’t bet anymore. Here is an amusing graph that illustrates that.

Norway has about 1,200 venues, mostly kiosks which offer a total of 2750 Multix Individual Video Terminal (IVT) machines. Some of the games available on Multix, Belago, and online from Norsk Tipping include: Lotto, Viking Lotto, Joker, Extra, Keno and Flax, scratch, bingo, slots, Roulette, Black Jack, Caribbean Stud Poker, video poker, and Baccarat. The Norsk Tipping Sports betting unit offers the following games in Norway; Tipping, Langoddsen, Vinneroddsen, Oddsbomben and Liveoddsen.

Slot machine players have largely not switched to a new game after the ban. A very small percentage of gamblers started playing IVTs, and the IVTs never reached any significant market share though they did provide larger revenue than they statistically should have, in relation to slot machines. This was an effective neutering of gamblers and their slot machine needs. At least as far as land-based slot machines are concerned. This opened the door to online slots, so let’s see what did Norway do about that.

Norsk Tipping monopoly 1998-present

The monopoly on gambling in Norway was initiated by state-owned Norsk Tipping around 1998, and a long campaign was always tied to social health concerns, whereas in reality it was an orchestrated attempt to seize the gambling monopoly. A report by Anita Borch from National Institute for Consumer Research (SIFO) suggests the campaign has been successful and has transformed the minds of Norwegians to embrace the monopoly even if that’s not how it was presented to them at first, that the state acts as a regulator and a provider, and that the state has two sets of rules – one for themselves and one for everyone else. “This is a story about a state and a company that know what they want—and take what they want”, Borch concludes.

Norsk Tipping online slots

The circle is now complete, and in recent times Norsk Tipping assumed the role of a proactive operator that signs deals with slot development companies in order to be able to offer their titles in their KongCasino. In January 2018 they added Quickspin slots, and in November 2018 they signed a deal with Scientific Games, just to name two recent examples. At the time of writing this article, there were a total of 82 different slot games available at KongCasino and therefore a total of 82 different slot games the Norwegians are allowed to play legally.

Opinion

If there’s someone who has been hurt by these events from 1998 to 2018 and onwards, it’s the Norwegian gamblers. They have been deprived of quality games – so they play the ones that are bad for them – and only recently have the best slot games started to be available to Norwegians. However, it’s still too little, as KongCasino only offers a small fraction of what is offered by the best gambling establishments in the world.

Crucially, it was obviously never the intention to help the gamblers. First one toy was taken away from them and replaced by a worse one that couldn’t possibly be won but losses were limited so statistics looked good, and these days Norwegian gamblers have unlimited access to online slots. How were they protected from gambling? KongCasino and Norsk Tipping obviously don’t have an intention to ban themselves and therefore drastically reduce the number of calls to the gambling helpline.

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