Amendments to the Lottery Act
Finland has prepared amendments to the Gambling Act, which aims to reduce the harmful effects of gambling, such as problem gambling and related social disadvantages. However, a closer look reveals that the amendments to the Lottery Act only aim to improve Veikkaus’ monopoly position, and in reality the new Lottery Act will bring more harm to players than ever before. Problem gamblers in particular will suffer the most from these changes.
In practice, the amendment to the Lottery Act means that Finnish players may not be offered information about foreign online casinos in Finnish only. With the changes in the future legislation, it is unequivocally illegal to advertise foreign online casinos if there is a Finnish legal entity, ie an individual, company or entity. The penalty is a fine or up to six months’ imprisonment. It is also good to remember that it is possible to convict the state of proceeds of crime under current law.
The major international gambling companies, backed by listed companies, have interpreted the new gambling law in the strictest way possible. Unibet (Kindred Group PLC) has already withdrawn marketing from Finland and Betsson’s brands are following suit. Unibet has closed the affiliate accounts of Finnish partners and does not pay commissions to Finnish customers. Betsson no longer pays commissions on players sent from sites targeted to Finnish players in 1/2022.
What this practically means for the player?
Websites that appear well in Google’s search results in Finland are in Finnish and often only in Finnish. In the future, these sites, which appear well in Google’s search results, will not see reliable and sound online casinos run by a listed company that has to interpret the law accurately. All that remains is a handful of reliable privately owned online casinos and a big bunch of less solvent vague players.
The stark truth is that most of the companies and individuals behind these sites that appear well in Google’s search results don’t care about or understand the online gambling and the background behind the online casinos. Most likely, these affiliate sites will list and recommend online casinos that operate under questionable licenses and have an even more questionable ownership base.
For the player, this means that withdrawing funds may not be that easy or even possible. The player’s personal information and credit card information may also be at risk. Not forgetting, of course, the tax consequences of gambling winnings from an online casino located outside the European Economic Area.
In reality, therefore, these changes to the law on lotteries will not serve the interests of players, and will put problem players at even greater risk. The only benefits of the change in the Lottery Act are Veikkaus Oy – Competition is reduced and there is no need to invest in supply, costs are reduced and revenues are increasing!
The national licensing system is not perfect either
A worrying phenomenon has been observed in Sweden since the transition to the licensing system. The terms of the Swedish gaming license are strict and the license fee is high. There are restrictions on the provision of bonuses and the game limits and voluntary account closure apply to every operator licensed in Sweden, and not just site-specific. This created a large niche market for online casinos operating under a vague non-EU license. There are currently a large number of Curacao-licensed online casinos in Sweden, the biggest source of income for which are problem gamblers.
There would be better options than national licensing systems, blocking or criminalizing marketing if the disadvantages of gaming were to be truly addressed. There is no so-called banana countries such as Curacao, Costa Rica, so that licensing could be granted from within the EU. The Maltese gambling authorities are well up to date and the Maltese licensor has a lot of practices and means already in place to incite gambling nuisances and ensure player safety. The only downside to this system would be that the competition for Veikkaus would be fiercer and more would have to be invested in the gaming monopoly’s own offering. However, the benefits would be undeniable for Finnish gambling enthusiasts.