Norway: Athletes gambling sponsor income under pressure

Norwegian athletes from a variety of sports, including UK Premier League football players, NHL players, cross country skiers and pole vaulters have signed sponsorship deals with various gambling operators. Norway practices a state-owned monopoly through Norsk Tipping on all gambling activities and the bulk of the proceeds from Norsk Tipping is plowed back into sports and culture. Norsk Tipping therefore stands out as a dominant beneficiary and money source for Norwegian sports both on a grass root level and for premier athletes.

Norwegian athletes whom have signed up for sponsorship deals with non-licensed operators have however been met with a very firm and consistent stance from local sports federations on all levels who has threatened to ban the athletes from representing Norway in international tournaments if they continue to make sponsorship deals with non-licensed gambling operators. The reasoning is that such sponsorships undermine the ban on gambling advertising in Norway and that this is not favourable for Norsk Tipping which is one of the largest contributors to sports financing in Norway. Other comments and official statements highlights issues such as supporting responsible gambling, values and ethics

The pressure applied from the sports federations seem to have the effect that the athletes have stood down one by one, and are closing off their deals (or not signing new ones) with their gambling sponsors. The legality of the sponsorship deals seem not to have been the main issue as the Lottery Authority has not taken any action in this respect. The issue is likely that Norwegian Sports Federation will not condone such promotion deals because they have decided on a policy in these questions which is supportive of and maintains their good relationship with their benefactor, Norsk Tipping. On 29 July, the President of The Norwegian Olympic and Paralympic Committee and Federation of Sports further cemented the position against the athletes by a statement which effectively works to ban them from receiving any kind of service from Olympiatoppen (the top athletes support organisation), including access to training premises.

Regardless of the legality of the advertising and the legality of the sports federations sanctions against the athletes, it seems that the sanctions and the unanimous outcries from representatives of organized sport in Norway will have the effect that few – if any – Norwegian top athletes will sign sponsorships with non-licensed gambling operators in the near future.

For more information please contact Nils Arne Grønlie (nils.arne.gronlie@dlapiper.com)