Gambling in Finland has been a heavily regulated, government controlled industry after the Second World War.
Although the European Union (EU) is continuously pressurizing the country to end its gambling monopoly, Finland doesn’t appear to be succumbing to any pressure.
The country has a couple of land-based casinos and its residents are fond of betting on Pesapallo, a game similar to baseball.
Slots are available throughout the country, but they are licensed only to charitable institutions that use the proceeds to fund various charities.
In addition, the country has around 78 gaming arcades, 30,000+ slot machine games, and 250+ restaurants with table games.
Finland has its own state-run online casinos and online sports betting sites and lacks the legal framework required to prosecute citizens signing up at offshore online gambling sites.
Attempts to End the Monopoly
Finland is one of those countries that have been closely observing the developments in Sweden’s online casino gaming industry.
Impressed with Sweden’s regulatory framework, Finland now wants to put an end to its gambling monopoly.
Ending the monopoly, however, is not going to be an easy task as a number of lawmakers are not in favour of the move.
Some of them feel that ending the monopoly would have a negative impact on several organizations that depend on the funds generated by state-run gambling companies.
They argue that ending the monopoly will not solve the problems that the online gambling industry is currently facing.
So Finland is most likely to observe the developments in Sweden before making any changes, and this may take several years.
Companies that Control Gambling in Finland
Finland has three entities that enjoy monopoly over different forms of gambling. They operate the only licensed online and land-based gambling establishments in the country.
RAY – The Slot Machine Association of Finland, RAY monopolizes land-based casino gaming in the country. This includes all table & card games, roulette games, and slot machine games.
Veikkaus Oy – This company enjoys monopoly over instant win games, sports betting, and the national lottery.
Fintoto Oy – This entity controls pari-mutuel horse racing.
Finland is home to yet another entity called PAF that supervises gambling in an autonomous region called Aland Province, which comprises 6,700 islands in the Black Sea.
Finland has a number of legal online casinos and sportsbooks operated by RAY and PAF. While the former monopolizes the country’s mainland, the latter monopolizes Aland Province.
At the time of writing, Finland does not license private operators. The absence of gambling regulation does not stop offshore online casinos from accepting bets from Finnish players.
They can safely do so because the country has no effective legal mechanism to prosecute them. Finland can neither block offshore online casinos nor prevent its residents from signing up for real money play.
Finland’s Major Gambling Law – The Lotteries Act
The Lotteries Act is the main gambling law in Finland. Its purpose is to protect gamblers, curb gambling related crime and abuse, and minimize the negative impacts of gambling, such as problem gambling and gambling addiction.
Finland’s Interior Ministry creates gambling related rules through decrees that regulate prizes paid to winners, number of permitted gambling machines, online casino games, land-based casinos and gaming rooms, opening hours, locations, and so on.
It is the duty of the National Police Board to ensure that the gambling rules are properly implemented.
According to the Lotteries Act, residents have to be at least 18 years of age to play real money games.
The intent of the law is to protect underage individuals from problem gambling and gambling addiction.
The law allows Finland’s three gambling entities as well as players themselves to establish their own gambling limitations.
Finnish players who wish to play online at any of the state-run online casinos are required to undergo verification procedures.
This is required to prove identity, physical address, and age. Players, therefore, have to register an account before they can start playing for real money.
In addition to online casinos, restaurants and other physical locations that offer slot machine games are required to make sure that players are of the legal age to gamble. If they fail to do so, they may get into trouble with the law.
The law makes gambling advertisements targeted to minors illegal. Gambling products cannot be marketed by making gambling appear attractive. Veikkaus Oy is permitted to market its games only in such a responsible manner.
Marketing of certain games, which clearly have a number of negative effects, is permitted only on racetracks, casinos, and gaming arcade.
However, it is legal for the operator to provide information on gambling locations, gambling terms & conditions, cost of participation, odds of winnings, prizes, betting ranges, and so on.
Future of Online Gambling in Finland
At the time of writing, no private or offshore operator can obtain an online gambling license in Finland.
In the absence of proper online gambling laws, there is nothing to prevent offshore online casinos from accepting Finnish players and Finnish players from signing up at offshore online casinos.
There are statistics to show that the residents of Finland have a weakness for gambling. According to a report by H2 Gambling Capital, they spend over €10 billion on different types of gambling games.
Finns are fond of placing bets online, and it is just a matter of time before the government realizes this simple truth and takes advantage of it.
The best option for the Government of Finland would be to properly regulate its online gambling industry, eliminate the gambling monopoly, and throw open the industry to offshore and private operators, just as Sweden has already done.
This would not only lead to increased tax revenue for the country, but also extra protection for the players.
Proper gambling laws would not only protect players from unlicensed operators, but also protect vulnerable groups such as minors, problem gamblers, and gambling addicts by giving them the required information, support, and assistance.
Regulation would also enable operators to accept Finns legally and give them the best possible online gambling experience.