Norway is a great destination for anyone looking to be taken aback by the insane beauty of the fjords and mountains, but it’s also a popular destination for active friends, bachelor parties and students. Some of you might be looking for a night out at the casino when you’re on your vacation, but what’s the deal with gambling in Norway?
All gambling in Norway is run by the state, and it’s illegal for privately owned casinos. While organized gambling is mostly illegal, small-scale poker among a non-business group is legal (like a poker night with friends).
Tourists are not really allowed to use the online-only state-run casinos (which are nothing like what you expect a casino to be anyway), so Norway is far from a great destination if you’re looking for a way to gamble away all your money while on vacation.
But there are some exceptions and details to make it a bit more nuanced, so let’s take a closer look at all there is to know about gambling in Norway, how you can run a poker night without breaking the law, and how Norwegians handle the private gambling ban.
How the Norwegian gambling monopoly operates
Norway has two different gambling companies:
- Norsk Tipping. This company runs the national lottery, sport betting, slot machines and online casino.
- Norsk Rikstoto. This company offers gambling services related to horse racing.
Both of the companies are state owned, and all profits are given to various non-profit organizations such as children’s sport teams or voluntary organizations.
The casino offered by Norsk Tipping is not really like what you expect from a casino, with a very limited number of games, and strict regulations as to how much money you can spend, how long you can play and more.
They are also responsible for slot machines which are found in certain small-scale casino cafés around Norway. These places have a few slot machines that you can only play with if you’re using your ID from Norsk Tipping. The slots themselves are designed to be less fun and addictive than the usual casino slots.
The other business, Norsk Rikstoto, is only responsible for all gambling related to horse racing. They offer both online services as well as regular betting at racing arenas.
Are there casinos in Norway?
There are no physical casinos in Norway, so Norway is not a great destination if you want to have a fun night out at a casino.
The closest things you will find are these small-scale casino cafés that have a few slot machines in them. These allow players to bet money on the slots, but again, it’s absolutely nothing like a night out at the casino. The slot machines are also not available to be played by non-residents.
If you’re looking for a night out at a casino, my best suggestion is to visit our neighbors in Sweden instead, because they do have a few physical casinos (even though they’re nothing like Las Vegas!).
You can get to cities like Gotenburg and Stockholm (again, in Sweden, not Norway) pretty easily from the eastern part of Norway if you’re after this type of entertainment.
How Norwegians gamble anyway
Despite the fact that gambling is pretty much banned outside of the state-run gambling systems, Norwegians who want to gamble are able to do so anyway.
This all has to do with the way the law is formed; it’s illegal to offer a gambling service, not actually gamble.
In other words, it’s perfectly legal for a Norwegian citizen to gamble at an online casino that is operating from another country.
However, the government is trying to stop this by banning access to foreign online casinos, as well as putting pressure on the Norwegian banks to refuse money transfers to and from these companies.
It’s currently very easy to get around as of 2023, but the Norwegian government is working on rules and regulations to make it even harder for Norwegians to use online casinos.
Small-scale poker among friends is perfectly legal
A poker night with a group of friends is perfectly legal in Norway, but has only been so since 2015. So you can enjoy this sort of entertainment without worrying about getting fined.
However, there are some limits to how the poker night must be arranged to make it comply with the law:
- You can only have a max of 20 players.
- You must organize the poker in a privately owned home.
- Each player can only spend 1,000 NOK or less (so the pot can never be over 20,000 NOK).
- The event should in no way or form be reminiscent of a business or a professionally run event.
Nicklas is the owner and editor of The Norway Guide, and is responsible for most of the content on the website.
He lives in Skien, Norway with his wife and two children. Nicklas is specialized in Norwegian ecology (including Norway’s geology, wildlife and flora) from his degree in Ecology And Nature Management at University of South-Eastern Norway, but has a particular interest in tourism and content creation.
His biggest hobbies are fishkeeping, going on hikes with his dog, and rooting for the local football team.