Norway could divest its oil fund from gambling stocks, if a proposal from two opposition parties gains enough support in the Scandinavian country’s legislature, local business news outlet E24 reported on Wednesday.
The Government Pension Fund of Norway was established back in the 1990s. Fueled greatly by the country’s oil and gas revenues, it is commonly referred to as Norway’s oil fund. Valued at $1 trillion, it is currently the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund.
According to information provided by E24, the oil fund’s total investment in different gambling companies stood at around NOK26 billion (approximately $3.3 billion) at the beginning of the year. E24 went on to report that Las Vegas casino giant MGM Resorts International and online gambling company Betsson, which is based and licensed in Malta but hails from Sweden, were among the fund’s holdings.
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The opposition Labour and Christian Democratic parties have tabled a proposal calling for gambling stock divestment. If approved, the move would come as a part of an annual review of the oil fund’s policies. However, the proposal would need to gain a little bit more support in the legislature in order to have chance for approval.
The Center Party and the Socialist Left Party would have to give their nod to the proposed divestment so that it is carried out.
Norway’s oil fund is already banned from investing in companies engaged in the tobacco, nuclear weapon and landmine production industries as well as in fields that are found to be violating human rights systematically. Proposals emerged last year that the sovereign fund also divest of all petroleum companies it has invested in.
The gambling stocks divestiture pressure comes at a time when Norwegian lawmakers are toughening their stance on unregulated gambling provided within the country’s borders.
Illegal Gambling Crackdown
Legal gambling services in Norway are currently provided by two state-run entities – Norsk Tipping and Rikstoto. Activities conducted by other gambling businesses, including by internationally licensed online gaming and betting companies are not authorized by the Scandinavian nation’s government and gambling regulator.
Norwegian politicians announced in late 2016 that the country would keep its existing gambling monopoly system, despite the wave of re-regulation and modernization of gambling that has swept over Europe over the past several years.
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The Scandinavian country has been trying to crack down on unregulated gambling operations for quite some time now. The introduction of the so-called Norwegian Payment Blocking Regulation back in 2010 was among the most important manifestations to its commitment. Under said regulation, payment service providers are banned from carrying out transactions to and from gambling companies that are not licensed in Norway.
The European Gaming and Betting Association recently reached out to the Norwegian Data Protection Authority, urging the watchdog to probe into the payment blocking regulation and arguing that it breached Norwegian resident’s privacy.
Late last year, the Norwegian government announced that it would look to curb gambling-related advertising content on television. For years, international operators have been able to exploit loopholes in the country’s advertising codes by advertising their products and services on channels that broadcast from outside Norway. Politicians said late in 2017 that a proposal for the requisite measures to be taken would likely be introduced this spring.