Finland’s gambling industry sets high records
Finns rank fourth among the world’s biggest gamblers, spending around €3 billion every year on various games of chance. According to a 2015 report by the National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL), Finns wager the most in Europe, with 80 percent of the population gambling in some form every year. Sports types such as Pesapallo – a Finnish form of baseball, skiing and ice hockey are also among the highest wagered sports events in Finland.
Evolution of the legal framework
All forms of gambling are legal and exist in Finland, although this industry is highly monopolized.
Gambling in Finland has been controlled by the government since the 1920-ies, about the same time slot machines started emerging here. At first, the operation of slot machines was done by private businesses, but later in 1938, the government interfered limiting licensing to private companies and establishing a state-owned body RAY to run and oversee casino and slot machine gaming in Finland.
The main law that provides legal governance concerning gambling in Finland is the Lottery Act 491/65, which was enacted on January 01, 1966. Notwithstanding its name, the Act actually extends its provisions to all forms of gambling, as it essentially laid down the legal and regulatory framework for the gambling industry, which has prevailed in the country to this day. This was reflected in the foundation of the separate monopolies to run the industry – RAY, Veikkaus Oy, Fintoto Oy and PAF.
Each of the above-mentioned state-controlled entities was set up to run and control a separate aspect of gambling. For instance, land-based casinos, slot machines and table games venues were run by RAY, while the national lottery and sports betting services were mainly provided and overseen by Oy Veikkaus operator. Fintoto Oy was put in charge of horse race betting activities in Finland, and Play Among Friends (PAF) was set up to provide and monitor all types of gambling in Aland Province. Aaland Province is an autonomous, Swedish-speaking region of islands on the southwest coast of Finland.
In 1996, Finnish government authorized Veikkhaus to provide its land-based games on the internet, thus legalizing online casino and gaming operations. However, with the consistent and rapid growth of online gambling, the rivalry started emerging between the four state-controlled monopolists in charge of the country’s gambling industry. All of them started competing with each other to get the sole right of offering online gambling services.
PAF became the first operator in the country offering a full scope of online casino and bingo games in its own website in 2007. This, however, caused a conflict between RAY and PAF, as RAY believed the other operator entrenched on the exclusive rights of the other monopoly members.
Subsequently, RAY also launched its own casino website in 2010. Thereupon, the other two state-licensed entities, – Fintoto and Veikkaus -also got licenses for offering their gambling services online.
Currently, the online gaming site operated by PAF, is accessible for all players across Finland and Aland province.
Since 2010, the competition from foreign online gambling operators pushing their products onto the Finnish market has been growing more and more intense. Rapid technological advancements also contributed to the necessity of Finnish gambling services providers to implement necessary changes.
The Finnish government did not want to let go of the full control over the country’s gambling market and its revenues and decided to take on protectionist measures and consolidate all the three mainland companies into one.
Despite EU objections to governmental monopolies, the Finnish government justified its decision arguing that the entity would be a non-profit, and at the start of 2017, casino operator RAY, lottery provider Veikkaus, and horse betting provider Fintoto merged into one state gambling monopoly that has retained the name of Veikkaus.
There are only two legal land-based casinos in Finland – Grand Casino Helsinki and Casino Marienhamn. The bigger one of the two casinos is the Grand Casino Helsinki, and it holds over 300 slots, 32 live gaming tables, and a Poker room. The smaller land-based casino is in Arkipelag Hotel in Marienhamn, the capital city of Aland Islands.
In addition to the two casinos, Finland has about 16 locations with 76 gaming arcades, over 250 restaurants with casino table games, and over 18,000 slots machines in shops and kiosks spread across the country.
Following new social responsibility guidelines announced in October 2019, Veikkaus pledged to undertake a gradual reduction of the total number of operational slot machines, suggesting that 3,500 will be phased out by the end of 2020.
The latest report released by Veikkaus for Q3 2019 indicated that Finland’s gambling market growth was stable, showing a 5.6% year-on-year increase in operating profit, which rose to €260.8m (£224m). The company turnover during the period revealed a slight year-on-year decrease, falling by 0.7% to €733.9m (£631m). According to the report, the revenue proceeds from the digital channel amounted to 42.9% of the total turnover. In addition, Veikkaus’s compiled annual statistics indicated that Lotto revenues increased due to a number of record-setting rollover jackpots that saw a turnover of EUR 267.4 million between January and September 2019.
On the lookout of online gaming reform
Although online gambling is controlled by the state-owned monopolist Veikkaus, several hundreds of foreign online casino operators are able to offer their services to Finnish punters. Although according to the legislation of Finland, foreign online casinos are prohibited in Finland, the mechanism for banning foreign online casinos has not been put in place. As such, Finnish punters players can easily access any international gambling websites.
Some reports suggest that Finns gambled more than EUR 286 million on foreign casino websites in 2018, which amounts to a significant revenue loss for the Finnish government.
In an attempt to fence off competition from foreign operators, in the spring of 2019, Veikkaus announced its intention to spend between EUR 4 million and 8 million on expanding its portfolio introducing new online casino games. For starters, the Finnish gambling monopoly forged content distribution partnerships with Yggdrasil Gaming and NetEnt.
These days, the total revenue of the state monopoly of Veikkaus generates close to three billion euros per year. Over €200 million comes in taxes, which amounts to almost two percent of the government budget. Forty-three percent of the gambling industry revenue is allocated to the Finnish Ministry of Social Affairs and Health for spending on social welfare and healthcare needs of the population. Another 53% of the revenue is channeled to the Ministry of Education and Culture for financing youth projects, projects in physical education, youth and arts. Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry utilizes four percent of the gambling revenue proceeds to the budget.
Legislative requirements for punters
You have to be 18 years old to be admitted to a gambling venue or a website in Finland.
A customer can apply in person for a personal self-exclusion at the casino premises.
In an attempt to provide a safer and more responsible gaming environment for its customers, Finnish gambling operator Veikkaus has introduced a few policy settings maximum daily limits on some games.
For online gambling, players are required to set daily and monthly loss limits as part of the registration process. These limits apply to all types of online gambling. The maximum daily limits for both slot machines and table games are set at €500.
Games in which players play each other, including poker, do not have a daily cap. Nonetheless, a maximum limit of €5,000 is imposed on all gambling accounts between 12 am and 6 am, and customers cannot put more funds into their accounts during this period.
Would you like to learn more about gambling in other European countries, please see the following: