The EFTA Supervisory Authority the equivalent of the EU-Commission, brought action against Norway on March 13th 2006, after the Norwegian government had failed to comply with a comprehensively argued decision by the Supervisory Authority. Meanwhile the writ was served by the EFTA-Court (case-no. E-1/06). Norway was called upon to reply until the 18th of April 2006.
The reason for the action is the introduction of a national monopoly on gaming machines. Norway amended its gambling law in 2003. Accordingly the state-owned Norsk Tipping has the exclusive right to operate about 10.000 gambling machines. Thereupon the EFTA Supervisory Authority initiated the infringement procedure. The Norwegian provision was called inconsistent and disproportional. It were especially incompatible with the consistency test established by the ECJ.
The EFTA Supervisory Authority was thus faster than the European Commission, which initiated infringement proceedings against Denmark and Greece but has not yet brought action. Insofar the supervisory authority’s decision is groundbreaking. The rarely called upon EFTA-Court is probably going to decide soon.
It is of special interest, whether the court is going to follow the Supervisory Authority’s line of arguments, arguing that the Gambelli-criteria were not only applicable to sports-betting but also to other games of chance. A liberalisation of the Scandinavian gaming market (as well as the EEA-member Lichtenstein) now seems possible.