PokerStars to exit Norwegian market by month’s end for “commercial reasons”

PokerStars has officially confirmed its decision to cease operations in Norway by the end of the month. The global poker platform has sent email notifications to players in the country informing them that, as of Thursday, October 26, PokerStars’ online services will no longer be accessible in Norway.

In a statement to Poker Industry PRO, a representative for the company acknowledged the forthcoming withdrawal from the Norwegian market, attributing the decision to cease operations to “commercial reasons.”

For commercial reasons, we have decided to stop offering our products to residents of Norway from 26 October 2023 and have informed our customers accordingly,” affirmed Flutter Entertainment’s flagship poker room in its communication with PRO.

Despite the withdrawal, PokerStars told its Norwegian customers that access to their accounts would be maintained, guaranteeing them flexibility to withdraw their funds at their convenience.

PokerStars is the world’s largest real-money online poker room and part of gambling giant Flutter. The poker brand now joins competitors bet365, Kindred, ComeOn, and Betsson in withdrawing from the Norwegian market

Poker operators exiting Norway

Back in September, following years of legal conflicts, Lottstift, Norway’s Gambling Authority, declared that all unlicensed operators must discontinue their illegal offerings or otherwise face severe financial consequences. 

At the time, the Norwegian regulator made no specific mention of PokerStars’ market activity. Instead, the threat was made directly against 15 other websites, primarily operated by Kindred, Betsson, and ComeOn.

According to Lottstift, new rulings by the Storting (Parliament) had granted the authority new powers to combat non-regulated gambling. These include the abilities to block IP access to illegal websites and to demand that Norwegian banks and financial services terminate monetary transactions with unlicensed operators.  

Before the enforcement measures, Lottstift had been involved in a number of lawsuits against European operators who disputed the authority’s rules, arguing that these rules favored the monopoly practices of Norsk Tipping and Rikstoto. Operators further said the regulations were in breach of EU competition laws. 

September’s announcement was deemed by Lottstift Director Henrik Nordal as a victory for Norway, effectively ending unlicensed operators’ activities in the country, as they will no longer be able to target Norwegian consumers.