UNITED STATES—The gambling industry in Finland is very lucrative and among the world’s top 10 gambling nations. This is mainly due to the state’s approach in regulating legal casino platforms, more so online casinos.
The industry is state-owned by a gaming company called Veikkaus Oy, or Veikkaus in short, whose special mission is promoting responsible and safe betting. The company was formed in 2017 by merging previously existing gambling and betting agencies, Fintoto, Finland’s Slot Machine Association, and Veikkaus. Here, games available fall into 3 categories; Slot Machines and Instant Games, Lucky Games, and Skill Games.
With over 700 000 gamblers playing weekly, Veikkaus is the biggest online betting sector in Finland. The company’s only land-based casino was set up in 1991 and is situated in Helsinki, but this hasn’t slowed Finland’s general revenue and traffic. There’s also another land casino yet to be opened in Tampere.
Betting is mainly done online– more than 40% of all betting is done online. Veikkaus benefits the Finnish community through various ways, job creation, investing revenues in health and social welfare, fund all sorts of social functions like sports and culture events, to name a few. The Finnish Lottery Act regulates the operations and conduct of the company.
The Finnish Lottery Act
This Act regulates Finland’s gambling industry. It combats crime and money misuse, ensures gamblers are legally protected, reduces and prevents negative social, economic, and health-related gambling effects.
Through a project launched by the Ministry of Interior in January 2020, the Lottery Act is set to be examined, amended, and then put in action come 2022. The Act’s main amendments include tackling marketing violating the Act, preventing gambling-related harm, and directing the demand for gambling to services provided in the Lottery Act. Let’s look at the reforms made in the Lottery Act, making online gambling in Finland stricter.
1. Marketing of Gambling Products/Services Become Tougher
The reforms require marketing, in general, to be moderate with the prohibition of harmful games like slot machines and games of chance. The reforms further oblige parties to include important information in printed or visual advertisements like the age limit for gambling games (minimum 18 years), services that help gambling problems, and gamblers’ right to ban themselves from betting.
Advertisements that make gambling seem positive or attractive are not allowed. Some games, termed to harm Finns, are not allowed to be advertised on the online space or TV; rather, they can be marketed in casinos, gaming arcades, and racetracks only. Marketing of gambling games provided by sectors other than Veikkaus is also prohibited.
On the brighter side, the bill would expand permitted marketing to other sectors. Marketing betting games like toto, which was currently prohibited, would be allowed in the new bill.
To ensure parties comply with the Act, measures will be taken to intensify monitoring of the marketing. The National police Board can propose an administrative penalty to the Markert Court on parties violating the Lottery Act’s marketing reforms. In the future, the National Police Board will also be allowed to prohibit individuals from marketing gambling-related activities once they violate the Act’s marketing amendments.
2. Blocking Payment Transactions
A system that prevents gambling-related payment transactions outside the Finnish state would be introduced. This reform is scheduled to start at the beginning of 2023. The system wuold block gambling-related transactions from companies whose marketing is prohibited by the National Police Board. The National Police Board would also maintain a blocklist of gambling companies whose payment transactions ought to be blocked by banks or other payment service providers. The purpose of blocking payment transactions is to limit the availability of foreign companies marketing gambling services to Finnish people.
3. Compulsory Identification for All Gambling Games
The compulsory identification will cover all Veikkaus games and will be introduced in stages starting latest 2023. However, for scratch cards players, identification would start a bit later, but not past 2024. Here, online gambling players will need to identify that they are above 18 years to play. They will also need to verify where they live. The extensive compulsory identification would enable Veikkaus to introduce gambling blocks and restrictions in all its games.
4. B2B Activities
The Lottery Act’s amendment would allow Veikkaus to establish a subsidiary for B2B purposes other than gambling. The B2B operations would dwell on offering digital gaming services and products to other firms, but it won’t be permitted to offer gambling services to the public. This amendment is going to happen in different stages.
The Future of Finland’s Online Gambling Industry
The efforts to reform the Lottery Act mainly focus on strengthening the state-owned industry, Veikkaus, and not opening up the gambling space to private operators. This is justified by the revenue the gaming industry generates for the government which then benefits the public.
The reform’s main idea was to protect the public from gaming-associated risk. Its worth noting that, even though the number of Finn’s gamblers has increased over the past few years, the number of people affected by gambling has remained at the same level, 3%. This number is quite high compared to other areas with a more open approach to gambling, like Europe, averaging 0.5-2%.
Implementation of some reforms, such as blocking payment transactions from foreign gambling sites, is filled with doubt since gamblers can use other options like cryptocurrencies and e-wallets to navigate such blocks easily. What’s more, Finnish gamblers can use technology to circumvent blocking such VPNs to play games on platforms other than Veikkaus, making the Finnish government lose significant amounts of revenue.
The amendment gives the operators more tools to tackle illegal marketing in the law. However, the measures proposed may fall short of the goal. Controlling advertising in a non-monopoly state could be easier if illegal advertising would result in strict punishments like huge fines or losing a gaming license. As this would encourage all sectors to promote their gambling platforms legally.
Stricter rules may not be the best solution. The existing issues, together with their solutions, need to be thoroughly assessed and the system reviewed objectively.