OSLO, Norway, Aug. 8, 2023 /PRNewswire/ — “I deeply regret the impact my mistakes have had on others, including the wonderful people in the fields of culture and gender equality, my colleagues in the government, and everyone I’ve disappointed.” With these words of remorse, Anette Trettebergstuen ended her tenure as Minister of Culture in the Norwegian government. She called a press conference in Oslo on June 23 to apologize and announce her resignation.
During her time as Minister of Culture, Anette Trettebergstuen appointed two of her former colleagues from the Norwegian constituency of Hedmark Ap to the board of Norsk Tipping, showing an unfair bias in their favor. Thomas Bryn became a board member in April 2022, while Sylvia Brustad took over as chair in April 2023. These board positions were given to party members whom Minister of Culture Anette Trettebergstuen had known for more than two decades, with remuneration of NOK 280,000 and NOK 150,000 respectively.
In addition, she has appointed another former colleague from Hedmark Ap as deputy chairman of the board of Norway’s Rikstoto, entitling him to a fee of NOK 150,000.
Commenting on Anette Trettebergstuen’s conduct, Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre said, “Annette has on several occasions offered and appointed good friends to board positions and other positions related to her (ministerial) portfolio.” He acknowledged that she admitted to being biased and therefore unable to act objectively on the basis of merit.
“We couldn’t help but mention the conflict-of-interest scandal involving former Culture Minister Anette Trettebergstuen, because now the activities of state-owned gambling companies will be under increased scrutiny,” says Lars Hansen, gambling industry expert from Norskecasinopanett.
When a government official, such as Minister of Culture Anette Trettebergstuen, appoints close friends to influential positions with substantial fees, it raises concerns about unfair bias and nepotism. Such actions undermine the principles of transparency and meritocracy, as positions that should be filled based on qualifications and expertise are instead given to acquaintances without due consideration. This type of favoritism undermines public trust in government and can lead to perceptions of corruption or abuse of power.
It’s important to remember that Norsk Tipping and Norsk Rikstoto are state-owned gambling companies, managed by the Ministry of Culture, which have a monopoly on the gambling market in Norway. The exclusive right for Norsk Tipping is justified by concerns about the potential social problems of gambling for customers, and there is a broad political consensus on the need for strict state regulation of gambling to protect consumers. The debate over this exclusive right is a recurring one, with some advocating the introduction of more players through licensing. In a 2015 study, the Norwegian Lottery Authority concluded that the exclusive rights model is likely the best approach to prevent gambling-related problems, while another government study suggested that liberalizing the market may not lead to more profits for the government.
Notably, Norway is the only country in Europe to have implemented a payment ban in 2010, requiring Norwegian banks and credit institutions to stop all transfers to foreign competitors of Norsk Tipping and Norsk Rikstoto. On May 7, 2018, the Storting (the Norwegian Parliament) decided to restrict Norwegian players’ access to foreign online gaming platforms in order to protect Norsk Tipping from foreign competition.
In addition, both Norsk Tipping and Norsk Rikstoto have refused to provide data and statistics on Norwegian gambling behavior.
In 2012, the Ministry of Culture commissioned Norsk Tipping to launch online games to channel Norwegians’ desire to gamble in a safer environment. Since unregulated gambling companies generate significant revenues each year, the goal was to offer similar types of games within a safe framework and restrictions. In addition, the profits will be channeled to good causes, similar to Norsk Tipping’s other revenues. The latest profit data available on the company’s official website is for 2021 and amounts to NOK 6.28 billion.
If Norway were to open its gambling market, there could be several consequences. On the positive side, it could lead to increased competition and innovation within the gambling industry, potentially offering consumers a wider range of options. It could also generate additional revenue for the government through licensing fees and taxes.
On the other hand, the Norwegian government’s current complete monopoly on the gambling market, controlled by Norsk Tipping and Norsk Rikstoto, has its own advantages. By maintaining this monopoly, the government can exercise strict control over the industry to prevent gambling-related problems and protect consumers. Profits from Norsk Tipping’s operations are channeled into charitable causes such as sports, culture and humanitarian organizations, making a positive contribution to society. The Government and the Ministry of Culture allocate these funds according to a distribution formula set out in the Gaming Act.
According to the Ministry of Culture, 100% of Norsk Tipping’s profits are reinvested in society each year. In 2022, for example, NOK 518.3 million of the profit was donated to voluntary emergency organizations, including Redningsselskapet, the Red Cross and Norwegian People’s Aid. In 2023, 18% of Norsk Tipping’s gambling profits must be distributed to social and humanitarian organizations by September of that year. The government’s current stance on the monopoly seeks to prioritize social responsibility over profit-seeking, with the goal of preventing gambling problems and protecting vulnerable individuals.
“Whether the monopoly is an advantage for Norway depends on the government’s overall goals.” – says Lars Hansen. If the primary goal is to minimize the negative effects of gambling while supporting social causes, then the existing monopoly is in line with these intentions. However, if the priority is to promote the growth of the industry and generate additional profits, it may be justified to consider alternative models. Striking a balance between these objectives is crucial for effective regulation and the overall welfare of Norwegian citizens.
It is unlikely that there will be any radical changes in the policy of monopolizing the gambling industry that Annette Trettebergstuen has pursued during her time in the ministry. It is not for nothing that she has appointed people to the positions of trustees in Norsk Tipping and Norsk Rikstoto who have worked with her for a long time in the Norwegian constituency of Hedmark-Up and who are most likely her associates.