Finland Set to Open Up to Private Gambling Operators

  • A recent surge in illegal gambling has prompted a change to Finnish gambling
  • New licenses will require players to provide proof of identification and address
  • Veikkaus will, however, retain a monopoly over lotteries and retail gambling
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Finland could be seeing some serious changes to its gambling market soon. [Image:]

Finland set to liberalize gambling laws

Finland will begin a consultation period to open up the country to private gambling operators, the country’s Ministry of the Interior has announced.

At present, the government-owned Veikkaus Oy has a monopoly on all gambling activity within the country. However, if current plans proceed, that could soon change, with private companies able to apply for licenses to run a variety of gambling operations in the country, including online casino games.

Finns spend €500m ($541.7m) a year gambling on foreign-owned sites

The law change has been prompted by a recent surge in illegal gambling activity through offshore sites which are easily accessible to most Finns. The government hopes that by increasing the amount of legal routes available to gambling, players will be protected from illegal operators. A report in 2023 suggested that Finns spend €500m ($541.7m) a year gambling on foreign-owned sites.

Marketing restrictions for new licensees

The regulations associated with the new licenses given will require players to provide proof of identification and address, which is already required with the state operator. There are also additional restrictions stipulated, such as a ban on bonuses – something which is already in place in neighboring Sweden. A self-exclusion program will also be a condition of the licensing, as well as signing up to a centralized register of banned accounts, requiring license-holders to co-operate on customer limits.

Heavy restrictions on advertising and marketing are also expected to be a major feature of the plans. While no outright ban on gambling advertising has been proposed, one notable restriction is to prevent influencers from advertising gambling services on their social media channels.

Changes for state-owned operator

There are also changes planned for the future of Veikkaus Oy, with the state given greater control over its future ownership in a restructuring effort. However, at the same time, the bill allows for the state to give up some of its share in the operator at a future date.

Veikkaus Oy will also be banned from advertising any physical gambling

Despite the plans for liberalization of the country’s gambling laws, there will still be some space where Veikkaus Oy will retain an effective monopoly, on both lotteries and physical gambling games such as slot machines and scratchcards. Veikkaus Oy will also be banned from advertising any physical gambling.

The bill will also fundamentally change the nature of regulatory oversight in the country. Currently, the National Police Board is responsible for controlling gambling activity, but the bill proposes a supervisory agency to be run by the Ministry of Finance for managing the regulations. The new board would issue fines and penalties, award and rescind licenses, and decide which specific games are permitted, among other duties.

The consultation is intended to run until August 18, 2024. If all goes to plan, the Ministry of the Interior has advised that the bill is expected to be submitted to parliament early in 2025. Licenses would be open for applications from 2026, with the full market opening up in 2027 for licensed operators, when Veikkaus Oy’s monopoly is set to come to an end.

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