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Partial Victory for Norwegian Government in Payment Blocking Suit

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The Norwegian Government has won a partial victory in payment blocking suit. The Oslo District Court has ruled that the Norwegian Ministry of Culture, Agriculture and Food does have the right to block payments to offshore igaming operators.

However, Entercash and the European Betting and Gaming Association (EGBA), the plaintiffs in the case, could still prevail in a second hearing. This will examine whether the blocking measures constitute an illegal restriction on the provision of services within the European Economic Area (EEA).

EGBA and Entercash filed the lawsuit against the Ministry in June this year, after efforts to block transactions between Norwegian banks and financial institutions and offshore gaming operators were stepped up. This comes as part of a wider enforcement drive by the Norwegian authorities to stamp out offshore activity to preserve the state-owned operator Norsk Tipping’s gambling monopoly.

The court ruled that the block does not violate the EU Payment Services Directive, as member states may still apply national laws that “may affect the functioning of the common [payment] market.”

“The State […] is acquitted in so far as the allegations are based on the assertion that the decisions are invalid because they lack internal legal authority and contravene the Payment Services Directive,” Anne Cathrine Haug-Hustad, the District Court Judge said.

“There is no doubt that the regulations, and thus the decision, are based on law. The regulations are laid down on the basis of Section 2 of the Gambling Act, Section 11 of the Lottery Act and Section 3 of the Totalizator Act,” Haug-Hustad continued.

“In today’s digital age it is virtually impossible to enforce national borders on the internet but that’s what the Norwegian authorities are trying to do by introducing payment blockings for online betting. Rather than being a tool to benefit consumers, such restrictive measures are aimed at protecting the revenues of the state-owned monopoly by cutting off outside competition from reputable EU-licensed operators,” EGBA secretary general Maarten Haijer said.

“This is not only in breach of the EU’s internal market principles but out of step with the reality of a consumer-driven betting market, where players will inevitably search around the internet for value and choice in the games they play,” he added.

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Discover a treasure trove in Blueprint Gaming’s Buckaneers’ Frenzy

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Discover a treasure trove in Blueprint Gaming’s Buckaneers’ Frenzy
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Latest Blueprint adventure includes Free Games round that removes low-paying symbols

Blueprint Gaming is taking players to the high seas in a new take on a classic theme in Buckaneers’ Frenzy, where pirates offer rewards of Free Games and valuable booty bags.

The latest Frenzy-themed title from Blueprint, which originates from Reel Time Gaming’s portfolio, features all the popular characteristics and mechanics that players appreciate about the classic game series.

Up to 20 Free Games can be awarded when a minimum of three scatter symbols land on the reels. During the bonus round, each pirate that lands in view acts as a wild and collects the total amount of booty bags that also appear on the same spin.

In addition, pirates that land on the reels award extra games as well as upgrade the lowest value bag of booty to the next highest value for all remaining spins. Should enough pirates appear during the round, only booty bags worth 50x bet will be in play to deliver huge win potential.

Jo Purvis, Director of Key Accounts and Marketing UK at Blueprint Gaming, said: “Pirates and their treasure have always proved winners with players and Buckaneers’ Frenzy is no different with a classic gameplay that will delight a wide audience.

“With a Free Games round that progressively removes low-paying symbols, there’s plenty of riches to plunder in our latest release that brings yet more quality slot gaming to operators and their players.”

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Gaming

The 5 up-and-coming game developer teams in Gamecity Hamburg’s incubator program present their projects and progress at Games Lift Graduation 2021

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At the final event of this year’s Games Lift Incubator program, five teams presented their game projects live at the start-up center Factory Hammerbrooklyn in Hamburg on December 2. During the three-month intensive phase of the incubator, the teams received individual coaching, mentoring, and workshops from international games experts, as well as financial support of 15,000 euros per project and workspaces in a co-working space from the location initiative Gamecity Hamburg. All five teams reached important milestones in the development of their games and concepts.

“I’m impressed by the progress the teams have shown in just three months. I look forward to seeing more from the teams and their games in the future,” comments Wolf Lang, CEO of event agency Super Crowd Entertainment, co-founder of indie studio THREAKS and member of the Games Lift Incubator awarding committee.

“The Games Lift Graduation vividly demonstrates the great effects that targeted funding programs like the Games Lift Incubator can have in leveraging the potential at Hamburg as a games location,” adds Dennis Schoubye, Head of Gamecity Hamburg.

At the final event, “Games Lift Graduation,” the five teams publicly presented their projects for the first time and provided insights into the progress they had made in development as well as outlooks for the future. Twitch streamer Nina Dreßler “OddNina” and Dennis Schoubye led through the evening.

For the developer teams, the incubator offered the opportunity to critically examine their ideas in exchange with experienced mentors, to refine their game concepts, and to check the market potential. For example, the young developer teams planned and tackled possible changes to game titles, the right pitch for their ideas, and concrete plans for Kickstarter campaigns to finance further development.

 

These five teams successfully completed the intensive phase of Games Lift Incubator 2021 with their projects:

 

The Invitation by tool1

Timo Becker, Martin Kleingräber, and Stephen Sommerfeld have known each other since their university days and founded their game studio tool1 to realize the action-packed multiplayer looter-shooter The Invitation. Graphically rich and with a focus on dynamic player interactions, the players fight for survival with each other, for each other, and against each other in a post-apocalyptic world attacked by aliens.

 

PROSPECTOR by Symmetry Break Games
The team Symmetry Break Games around HAW Hamburg University of Applied Sciences graduates Anca Tutescu, Jan Barow, Julian Heinken is working together with Franziska Blinde and Cecilia Theophil on PROSPECTOR, a sci-fi adventure with a compelling story and an innovative dialog system. In the game, all characters wear mysterious masks for protection against toxic fumes, which possess other surprising functions.

 

Monstersongs VR by Denise Koch
Solo developer Denise Koch brings experience from the theater and musical world and is currently working on developing a “Musical 2.0”:  Monstersongs VR is an adaptation of the successful “Monstersongs Rock Musical” as an interactive virtual reality story in a theater filled with monsters. As the project manager, Denise Koch brings together the threads of her team of experienced composers, illustrators, and VR developers.

 

supernightshift by consider it
Kevin Westphal and Timo Schneider from “consider it” are working on “supernightshift”, a mobile game based on a map app they developed which uses real-time traffic data. The players have to get to their destination in their mysterious “nightshift” with a tight budget of time and money and different means of transportation in real cities.

 

The Treepoids by SUPERNATURAL GAMES
Brothers Gerrit and Patrick Henschel founded their studio SUPERNATURAL GAMES together in 2019 and are developing a 2D strategy adventure game with lovingly hand-drawn scenarios. The alien plant creatures “Treepoids” solve puzzles, engage in strategic battles, and thus have to save the environment of a mysterious green island.

 

The support for the five teams through the Games Lift Incubator program does not end with graduation: In the next 12 months, they will continue to have access to the incubator’s extensive contact network, as well as individual support services from coaches, consultants, and a PR agency specializing in games. The aim is to aid the developers with long-term support in creating successful games for the international games market in Hamburg.

From May 2022, teams and developers can apply for the next Games Lift Incubator. All information about the incubator and the teams that have already completed the program can be found at: https://www.gamecity-hamburg.de/incubator/

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Compliance Updates

Update: Eurosport Fined for Gambling Ads

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Update: Eurosport Fined for Gambling Ads
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On September 16, 2021 the National Police Board (“NPB”) imposed a prohibition order and conditional fine of EUR 800,000 for Eurosport SAS (“Eurosport”), a pan-European sports network established in France, for broadcasting gambling advertisements on the Finnish language version of Eurosport 1 television channel.

According to our sources, prior to this the NPB had twice approached Eurosport arguing they infringe the Finnish Lotteries Act marketing prohibitions and requested the actions to be ended. Eurosport remained passive throughout the process until October 27, when they informed the NPB that in their view the decisions of September 16 were “manifestly incorrect”. Eurosport added that they will comply with the NPB’s request for now and they will not broadcast commercial gambling advertising on Eurosport 1 in Finland for the period of three months starting from October 28, 2021. Eurosport notified the NPB of their intention to appeal the NPB’s decisions of September 16 and the Helsinki Administrative Court confirmed that Eurosports appeal was filed October 28 and it is currently pending.

The subject matter of the case is interesting. The NPB makes a convincing case that Eurosports gambling advertisement is infringing the Finnish Lotteries Act. However, their argumentation regarding Audiovisual Media Services Directive (“AVMSD”) is less convincing.

The country of origin principle (“CoO principle”), according to which each EU Member State is legally responsible for all audiovisual media services originating from its own country, is a cornerstone of the AVMSD. Article 4 lays down exceptions to the CoO principle and defines the procedure which must be followed if a Member State is to take action against a media service provider established in another EU Member State.

With regarding to the AVMSD, the NPB would have to at the very least notify the EU Commission pursuant to Article 4 (4) of their intended actions and to substantiate the grounds on which its assessment is based. The EU Commission would need to decide that the measures are compatible with EU law. That has not been the case here.

The NPB argues that the AVMSD does not intend to harmonise gambling advertising in the EU and thus the CoO principle or Article 4 procedures do not restrict them taking direct action against Eurosport.The NPB’s argumentation is based on the recital 10 of the consolidating directive of 2018 which states that the AVMSD does not affect a Member State’s competence to decide on national approach to gambling advertising presumed that the measures taken are justified, proportionate to the objective pursued and necessary under the EU law.

As it is not stated anywhere in the AVMSD (original or consolidated version) that gambling marketing is excluded from the scope, the NPB’s argumentation appears at least questionable. If the Helsinki Administrative Court comes into a similar conclusion the case will fall apart.

The article has been written Antti Koivula, Consulting Legal Advisor at Legal Gaming.

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