in an article about the monopoly of the Finnish state over gambling, a row of Finnish flags
There's some controversy over the Finnish government's control over gambling in the country. (Photo by Joakim Honkasalo on Unsplash)

Finnish Gambling Monopoly Is Getting Tighter

While the government has control over in-person casinos, slot machines, lotteries, etc., online casinos are another story.

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in an article about the monopoly of the Finnish state over gambling, a row of Finnish flags

While the government has control over in-person casinos, slot machines, lotteries, etc., online casinos are another story.

When it comes to gambling, Finland is in a unique position. It’s the only country in the EU to have a complete monopoly on gambling. What this means is that there’s a single government-owned agency, Veikkaus, that offers gambling services. Veikkaus is the only organization of any kind legally permitted to provide Finnish people with gambling opportunities such as slot machines, table games, scratchcards and lottery tickets.

Veikkaus was formed in 2017 when three separate agencies merged. Each one of these was responsible for overseeing and regulating different types of gambling in Finland. Since the merger, Veikkaus has been in complete control of the country’s gambling.

Gambling Opportunities in Finland

Finland is home to a very small number of land-based casinos. It does, however, have a large number of slot machines that can be found in shops, restaurants, petrol stations and other venues. All of these are controlled by Veikkaus. Thanks to the agency’s monopoly, it’s been able to generate revenues exceeding €1.69 billion a year — this makes it one of the biggest gambling companies in all of Europe.

But what about online gambling? This is one type of gambling that Veikkaus doesn’t have any influence over. People living in Finland are legally allowed to sign up to and play at gambling sites based in other countries. They’re free to spend as much money as they want to gamble at online casinos and sportsbooks, without any risk of getting into trouble with the authorities.

What may Finns find appealing about gambling online is that there’s a huge range of options. The sites aren’t controlled by a single organization. There’s competitiveness: Sports betting sites can be competitive with their odds and casinos can be competitive with their bonuses. This means that there can be some great deals out there, and you can find them if you do a little research.

Feelings About Veikkaus

Some believe that Veikkaus shouldn’t have a monopoly in Finland. Lots of Finnish people gamble online regularly. Many Finns turn to online gambling because it gives them much more variety and enjoyment than real-world gambling. The problem with this is that the money they spend at online casinos and betting sites isn’t going back to the Finnish state; instead, it’s going to the companies operating these gambling sites.

If Veikkaus didn’t have a monopoly on Finnish gambling and other organizations could offer gambling to Finns, the government could impose taxes on the money these organizations generate through gambling.

Despite the fact that abandoning the monopoly could result in new revenue streams, the Finnish government supposedly backs it. The government seems to believe that the protection the monopoly offers players is better than the protection they’d get if there wasn’t a monopoly.

However, the figures don’t add up. If Veikkaus offers the best possible protection for players, Finland would have a very low number of problem gamblers. The figures don’t reflect this. A study carried out in 2019 found that 3% of people living in Finland had experienced problems connected with gambling. This figure is higher than other countries where there’s no monopoly on gambling, which goes to show that having a monopoly doesn’t necessarily mean gambling problems are going to go away. Spain is an example of a country where there’s no monopoly and the number of problem gamblers is less than 3% of the population.

Following the Examples of Other Countries

A few other countries that have had gambling monopolies have since abandoned them. Denmark, for example, replaced its own online gambling monopoly with a licensing system back in 2012. This resulted in a significant drop in the number of people visiting gambling sites based in other countries, which in turn resulted in more money for the Danish government. From 2012 to 2019, the percentage of gambling done at sites based in other countries experienced a 20% drop from 28% to 8%.

The Future of Finland’s Gambling Monopoly

Even though it makes sense to get rid of the monopoly, Veikkaus does have its backers and, it seems, is becoming more determined to protect those vulnerable to gambling addiction.

Last year, it was reported that the agency was looking to remove 3,000 slot machines. This was part of an effort to make it more difficult for problem gamers to access slots. Later on, it was announced that the figure had more than doubled to 8,000. Other recent rule changes include limiting the time that slot machines are available to play on and having reminders that pop up every quarter of an hour to show people how long they’ve been playing for.

At the moment, it seems that Veikkaus is further exerting its control and is doubling down on its intention to protect the vulnerable. It will be interesting to see whether this causes the public to favor it more, or whether they’ll still prefer a more open system like what other countries have.

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