October 27 2022

Will Finland follow Sweden’s model and change its gambling laws?

The Lottery Act and its predecessors have created a system for gambling in Finland for over a hundred years, which makes no sense. The advocates of this current situation always bring up the revenues of the current system, i.e., the more than one billion euros that Veikkaus distributes through government ministries to various Finnish projects and needs. Advocates usually forget at that point the same thing as the recipients of the subsidy, that it is precisely the loss of euros of Finnish gamblers being distributed.

It all started in Finland in the 1920s and 30s when active people developed ways to collect money for children, and slot machines were found from Germany to Finland. Since then, there have been slot machines in Finnish public spaces for the whole nation to see so that, at the most, these games have been available to Finns around 21,500 automatic.

At the same time, however, it has been said that there is only one brick-and-mortar casino in Finland in Helsinki, and another one is coming to Tampere. Still, otherwise, there would be no casinos in Finland – the fact is, however, that many gas stations and supermarkets have operated as mini-casinos because they may have had more than ten slot machines in a row welcoming customers to the store or for coffee, and on the side to play. In recent years, most Finns have played these machines, specifically at gas stations open 24 hours a day.

Those gaming machines in gas stations and shopping centers could just as well be out of sight of people in separate casino premises, just as is done, for example, in England, Germany, and many other European countries. Finland is the only country where the games can be seen publicly and openly by all minors, but this is not seen as a problem because the winnings, i.e., losses, are shared forward.

Finnish decision-makers and online casinos

The technical development of the Internet was brought already in the 90s. During the last decade, even hundreds of Finnish-language online casinos have appeared online, where Finns can play completely free today. In Sweden, the situation was the same until the Swedish government put a licensing system between the player and the online casinos, i.e., taxation and the license fee – when before, the government didn’t get any income from the online casinos.

The wrong side of the situation: is rapidly growing casino marketing in Sweden, which, however, has clearly decreased already around the turn of the year, and some of those who acquired their licenses at the beginning of 2019 have already left the country. Namely, now those online casinos that don’t have a Swedish permit can no longer produce their games for Swedish players(!) According to preliminary calculations, the Swedish government’s income increased thanks to the license system, even though Svenska Spel’s games decreased, and there has been no growth spurt in gaming disadvantages.

Then why didn’t the supposed growth spike come? Statistics show that many online games are already played in Sweden, Norway, and Finland, so even if Finland were to get a gambling license and foreign online casinos could market their games in Finland, the number of games would not increase very much. First of all, all current online casinos would not pay a license, i.e., they would close their doors to Finns, and secondly, since there is already a lot of gambling in Finland, the same would happen in Finland as in Sweden, i.e., in the beginning, there could be 100 online casinos applying for a license. Still, in the end, only some would remain to pay the license and taxes because there wouldn’t be enough players to share with everyone.

The future of Veikkaus

No one is saying that Veikkaus is not a good gambling company. In fact, it and its know-how would also appeal in other countries, i.e., Veikkaus’ gambling know-how would become an export product for Finland just like the forest produce. Finnish gambling expertise is high since online gambling, i.e., iGaming, is a globally growing industry, especially in the USA, Asia, South America, and soon also in Africa. There would undoubtedly be a demand for Finnish expertise, and a change in the law would provide new jobs for several hundred Finns. Many Finns who moved to Malta could think about returning to Finland if they could develop their profession and business activities in their own country.

The Gambling Act is, therefore, not just a matter of distributing winnings or the disadvantages of gambling – it is a much more versatile entity, and it will be interesting to see in which direction the Finnish Gambling Act progresses in the future, whether it will become a closed system following the Swedish and English model or the Russian model – does Finland want to be a Western country or an Eastern Bloc country in the future.


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Elle Gellrich

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