The Cure and the Cause – Finland’s Gambling Monopoly

Home » The Cure and the Cause – Finland's Gambling Monopoly

Has the Finland gambling monopoly been good for Finland? Is the Veikkaus ideology doomed?

Online gambling has seen a spike in recent times. Part natural growth and partly due to changes brought on by the worldwide pandemic, like it or not, more people play online than ever before with no sign of slowing. You can spin during spin class, sit at Poker tables at the dinner table and immerse yourself in live entertainment whilst entertaining. On your phone, on the bus, at work, maybe even a cheeky bonus-buy whilst doing that important job you’ve been putting off? As if you would.

Governments have naturally reacted by increasing focus on protecting players and minimising the effects of problem gambling on society. Most have followed a similar path of increased protection through licencing and legislation, in turn, limiting the presence of unwanted sites and keeping an element of local control on a worldwide stage.

Finland is somewhat unique. Formed of three operations in 2017, Veikkaus OY, is the government-run gambling site with a so-called monopoly. They aim to protect the player while contributing profits to charitable causes and foundations. One of the primary directives is to market games that have less impact on finances and are potentially less addictive. A good idea but, is it achievable?

Finland does not restrict residents playing outside the monopoly, by tightening legislation or blocking IP’s as other countries have tried before them. As a Finn, you are free to choose where to spend your budget on the internet which is primarily a good thing. Still, it questions the effectiveness of Vikkaus, not to mention the dictionary definition of a monopoly.

It is hard to see how Vikkaus can effectively compete in the open arena of the internet and if not, are they serving their purpose? They are the last regulated gambling monopoly of the EU, and many question their efficiency and stability. Over the last few years, Vikkaus has seen a steady decline in land-based sales and restructured to serve online growth.

Certain events have also led to a lack of support. Vikkaus radio adverts featured a therapist telling gamblers to fulfil their urges, plus another compared gambling on Keno to grabbing a coffee. Government compensation for lost revenue in 2020 has also divided opinion. And in April, Lidl Finland announced around 250 machines would be removed from their stores, giving up millions in commission for ethical reasons in another blow for Vikkaus.

With Vikkaus operating in current environment, whilst being the sole focus of a nations responsible gambling, it is difficult to see any future other than a steady run into the ground, depending on how many times the government continues to provide bail-outs.

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Finland has created a fragmented market, neither a monopoly nor responsible. Vikkaus have become uncompetitive and pushed players to search for greener pastures. Hardly responsible when a handful of unethical casinos can approach unhindered, and may also seem tempting to the uninitiated.

According to the 2019 gambling survey, 3% of Finland’s population have a problem and an article in December from the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare suggests this may have increased;

This means that around 790,000 persons are affected by someone close to them who has a gambling problem, and this proportion has increased.’

Source: https://thl.fi/en/web/alcohol-tobacco-and-addictions/gambling

Though all eyes are on Vikkaus, it’s fair to say they are not solely responsible. During 2019 almost 1/6 of gambling revenue fell to other sites. There are financial implications and as the profits dwindle, so will charitable donations, plus the control over a nations spend.

Focusing a monopoly of gambling profits back into society is not a bad idea, but not ideal in its current state and difficult to employ on the worldwide web. The burning question is; How long will it continue?

Updated in May 2021.

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