Gambling in Finland: History, Regulations and Progress
The way gambling is run in Finland is a bit different from what happens in many other countries. Instead of establishing laws for gambling companies, the Finnish government has a state monopoly on the gambling industry and anyone who wants to operate has to deal with the government.
This has been the case for decades and before the Second World War, it was the government that had total control. This situation still exists even if the European Union has defined this policy as “protectionist”.
The 1920s saw slot games arrive in the country. Several private businesses were launched, and that upset the government. 1933 saw them declare that only charities would be given a license to operate slot machines.
Five years later, the Raha-automaattiyhdisty (RAY) was established. This was the most recent slot machine association in the country. The association, among other things, promoted responsible gambling; a principle the Finnish government loves to approach.
Then came the lottery
Veikkaus Oy was the Finnish National Lottery organisation. Today, the money raised by the lottery, goes to projects in fields such as sport, culture, and science. Horse racing fans in Finland will be familiar with the Fintoto Oy which offered pari-mutuel betting. Revenues raised by this go into Suomen Hippos. This is an organisation run by the government that helps horses. In 2017 the three bodies joined together to operate under the name of Veikkaus.
The province of Aland is made up of approximately 6,500 islands in the Baltic Sea. They are also under the administration of the Finnish government and have a separate organization when it comes to gambling. PAF stands for Play Among Friends, and was launched way back in 1966. There had been several organizations but PAF created a single entity to govern gambling.
This has included the provision of online sports betting and casinos since 1999. However, in 2002, an act on such gambling activities saw RAY become the only official provider of online gambling with regards to the mainland.
Time for the operators
When it comes to gambling, the size of the odds does matter. People found that the odds offered by PAF were better, so more players began to use them instead of Veikkaus. RAY was not overjoyed at this development and legal action was being considered. Not wanting the two organisations to be at war, the Finnish government took the decision to allow both Veikkaus and PAF to continue operating.
A policy of the Finnish government is to recommend that their population doesn’t gamble outside of the countries borders. This is not laid down in law though, so plenty do register with sites run in other countries.
2012 saw the Lotteries Act passed. This imposes strict rules over who can gamble legally. You must be 18 years-old to be able to gamble legally and players need to confirm their identities.
Places with slot machines must comply with the minimum age rules. The strict rules also govern the advertising of gambling. It cannot be marketed to people of younger age. Nor should it be shown excessively in a positive light.
The Finnish government's belief is that a state monopoly is the best way to regulate gambling. This includes the important topic of reducing game addiction levels. A 2019 study conducted by the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare found that 11% of the Finnish population had engaged in "risky gambling" in the past year. This was 4% less than in the previous 2015 study.
Profits made from gambling are used by the Finnish Ministry of Education, to help a wide range of activities. This includes the arts, science, promoting physical education and sport, youth work, horse breeding and equestrian sports. Annual revenues regularly top €1 billion.
What comes next?
2020 saw the adoption of measures to reform the Lotteries Act. The top priority is to make improvements in the area of prevention, by reducing the harm that gambling can cause.
There is only one casino in the country and it is in Helsinki. A second is expected to open in Tampere next year. 70 locations described as "Feel Vegas" gambling halls have been opened, and those who have missed the opportunity can apply to open. These rooms allow you to play low-limit table games. The current ones are mainly in the Helsinki area, which explains why so many players head online for the chance to play on sites like Casinokokemus.
What the Finns think about the state monopoly?
How do the Finnish people feel about how gambling is managed in their country? A poll conducted in March 2019 by Kasino Curt found that 31% of respondents wanted the government monopoly to end: they prefer to introduce a licensing system for gambling. 27% wanted the monopoly to continue. The remaining 42% were neutral or did not state their opinions. There seems to be no assumption that the state monopoly ends soon, it's just the way things have been in the country for decades.