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How Nordics got themselves on the Poker world map


Back in the time, poker was only played in rooms full of smoke and cigarettes. Now, it is completely different. Modern poker is one of the most popular card games in the world and is more than just a game for many. Poker is beloved all over the world, yet some nations love it more than others. Despite that poker is legal in almost every country, there are still different regulations that apply.

The history of poker in Norway began in 2003, when Chris Moneymaker, suddenly and very unexpectedly won the World Series of Poker. Then he won Las Vegas and thus, Norway appeared on the global map of poker. Yet, even until now, many people think that poker is illegal in Norway. It is true that gambling laws are quite tough, but they have been relaxed within the past several years.

First Norwegian Poker Steps

Gambling is definitely quite restricted all-around the country and poker was illegal for many years. However, the law was partially softened in 2014. This is exactly the period when home poker games became legal unless they are organized and professional. Considering the fact that there was no local casino on Norwegian soil, it is safe to say that there are no organized and professional poker tournaments either.

But, since 2014, there is the annual Norwegian championship held. Before that, the championship was held in Ireland, yet between Nordic players. Johnny Loden, who is one of the most successful Norwegian poker players, never sat quietly in the corner, but would support or disagree with certain decisions and regarding the gambling industry and in particular poker.

So how legal is it to play poker in Norway now?

While this question does not have any specific answer to that, because it is simultaneously yes and no, there are some doubts about the full legality of the gambling industry in the country. Online casinos are legal for example, yet only those which are approved by the state authorities. There are only two of those kinds. Moreover, while gambling and poker are legal, there are only four casinos operating in the country. Some new regulations might be introduced with Norway and the UK signing the civil agreement, with the right to intertwine in each other’s laws. While this could be another great opportunity for the local new online casinos, also referred to as nye casinoer, to create a completely new segment of players, from the UK and Ireland, which would have not been possible in any other situation. The interwoven regulations, might also open doors for some UK online casinos and make the local online casino market more competitive.

According to the law, all online poker providers are based outside of Norway, so it is impossible to know how many Norwegians play online at the moment.

Online poker in Norway

Live poker is restricted in Norway, though the popularity of online cardrooms means that the game is easy to play online. Though this statement is not necessarily 100% true. These card games are all based elsewhere, typically most of them are based in jurisdictions like Gibraltar or Cyprus that offer tax advantages. This means the Norwegian government can’t ban their operation in Norway. However, they have taken steps to make it as difficult as possible for Norwegians to play online!

A bank of a financial institution registered in Norway is not allowed to transmit any transaction and money to the gambling providers outside of the country. If you try to use your debit card to the online poker room, the transaction will be declined anyway. This is what most of the Norwegian poker players have switched to the crypto payment methods, which are untraceable and the government officials can not tell the trace of the transferred money. There also is another option, which is the free gameplay offered by almost every single online casino.

Local poker tournaments

As already mentioned, until 2014 there was no chance of holding a poker tournament on Norwegian soil. Although there was a poker tournament it would only be hosted by Ireland, yet Norwegians were the ones to participate. Despite this fact, underground events have gained strength over time. For years the event was held in Dublin due to Norwegian law, but since 2015 an Oslo event has been added to the annual calendar.

Despite the fact that more events are held in Norway now, the Dublin event still continues to attract more and more people, with over 75 weekly events and week-long festivals. The main reason is yet, higher prizes.

Taxes and Oh’s

As mentioned before, the local government has made it all to make the poker gameplay as difficult for the locals as possible. The variety of taxes that apply to winning is another clear example of that. A huge ongoing discussion is whether poker is a game of chance or not. If it is, then it must classify as a hobby. Yet, if it is not a game of chance, it counts as a business, which means that it is the source of income for the player.

The main problem comes when it comes to taxation. When we are talking about a hobby, the winnings do not allow the deduction, yet are liable to tax. This could very easily lead to a situation where a player who wins $20,000 in a tournament actually breaks even over the course of their playing year but is then liable for tax on that $20,000.

Despite the legal oppressions and the unhealthy gambling environment, many Norwegian players are actively involved in tournaments and online poker for many years. While there are some great Norwegian poker players, there obviously is no Michelin star among them. While the situation with laws and restrictions is constantly changing, we might very soon witness a completely new reality in the Norwegian poker industry.

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