A woman playing a slot machine in a gambling arcade of Veikkaus in Helsinki in May 2023. The Ministry of the Interior has unveiled a draft bill to open parts of the gambling sector to competition. (Heikki Saukkomaa – Lehtikuva)

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THE MINISTRY of the Interior last week opened a public consultation period for a draft bill to de-regulate the gambling sector in Finland, calling for a partial dissolution of the monopoly of Veikkaus.

The bill would do away with the monopoly of the state-owned company in betting and online casino and slot machine games, and open the games to competition under a licensing system outlined in the government programme.

Veikkaus would “in practice” retain its monopoly on games such as lottery games and scratch cards, according to a press release from the Ministry of the Interior.

The licensing system, as described in the programme, is aimed at preventing and reducing gambling-related harm and channelling demand to the regulated market. The necessary licences – depending on the type of gambling, a gambling licence or exclusive licence and game software licence – could be acquired from a supervisory authority established under the Ministry of Finance.

Presently the National Police Board is responsible for supervising gambling in Finland.

Although Veikkaus has had a monopoly on gambling, a significant share of betting and gambling on the internet has taken place outside the monopoly and, as a result, outside the scope of national regulation and supervision, reminded the Ministry of the Interior. Finns spend about 500 million euros a year on the online gambling games of foreign providers, rapporteurs estimated in a report presented to the ministry in 2023.

The bill also sets forth provisions concerning the age limits, registration and verification of gamblers, as well as the marketing and sponsorship of gambling. While licensed service providers would be allowed to advertise their business and offering in various channels, commercial partnerships on the accounts of social media influencers would be prohibited, for instance.

The marketing of gambling should also be “moderate” in terms of its scope, visibility and repetitiveness, and could not be targeted at minors or otherwise vulnerable population groups.

Helsingin Sanomat reported in June that the preparatory work exposed a gulf between officials and politicians. Officials pointed to concerns over gambling-related harm in calling for stricter regulation on marketing, but the ruling parties had no appetite for this.

“The stance on these things has at all points been more liberal on the political side. It’s been confusing to see officials pulling every lever to hit the brakes,” one ruling-party source said to the newspaper.

Network barring and payment blocking would be utilised to restrict the provision and marketing of gambling games outside the licensing system. The bill would also grant the state owner greater latitude over future decisions about the ownership of Veikkaus.

The Ministry of the Interior revealed last week that the bill should be submitted to parliament in the first half of next year. The new system would then be instituted gradually, with the application window for licences starting in 2026 and provision of licensed games starting in 2027.

Veikkaus would retain its current monopoly until the end of 2026.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT

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