Finland’s State-Led Gambling Sector Evolving Into A Global Model

  • Successful gambling sector could be a great model for other countries
  • Finland's gambling industry funnels revenue into charity, which they are proud to advertise
  • Problem gambling is still an issue, with self-exclusion in need of improvement
The gambling model in Finland is being carefully watched by other countries
The gambling model in Finland is being carefully watched by other countries.

Many Finns might now know it, but their country’s gambling sector is unintentionally becoming a global model for other nations. However, Finland still has issues with problem gamblers.

Highly successful state monopoly

Finland’s state-monopoly gambling sector is a modern success story. The country’s economists downplay the role of nationalized industries, yet Veikkaus has created a socially responsible but efficient and popular standing in Finland. Veikkaus today includes RAY and Fintoto, the country’s former state-owned slot machine company and the state lottery.

The revenue from the gambling sector alone is a substantial $3.6bn annually, with $382m of this generated from national lottery alone.

Because Finland’s gambling sector has limited stakes and revenue is poured into good causes, the industry has a greater constructive influence than in other countries. This is something Finnish gambling websites are proud to advertise. The Helsinki Casino states on its website: “It is the only casino in the world where all the revenue goes to charity.”

Just 16 state-owned casinos

It is rare that you will come across a physical casino in Finland, with there being only 16 locations managed by Veikkaus across the whole country. This is drastically fewer than other countries such as the UK, which has 140 across the country, with 24 alone in the capital of London.

With such a small number of casinos, many would think that this would be bad for business, but they’d be wrong.

Online gambling thriving thanks to EU licenses

Veikkaus casinos exist alongside a booming online gambling scene. This doesn’t involve companies based in Finland, but comprises EU-licensed casinos. These operators offer a Finnish site and Finnish customer service, with the only difference being where the company is registered.

The main operators are based in various EU countries, with Malta being most popular. The island now has hundreds of Finns residing there, who work on Finnish content to help advertise their company’s work in customer support, or to players back in Finland.

This isn’t a usual set-up, but shows how the EU has allowed multinational markets to co-exist with traditional state-led economies. But will this system remain in place?

At the start of this year Sweden re-regulated the gambling market and lifted its monopoly system, which was like Finland’s current gambling system. At the moment there is a fine line between online international casinos and domestic regulation.

How can Finland go forward?

Finland’s current situation is a monopoly system, with hundreds of online casinos that operate via the EU’s competition laws. For gambling sector regulators, this can be very complex to navigate. However, supporters of the online casinos are optimistic.

The core issue for the online gambling companies and the government for the future is how they can improve the monopoly model to keep all the good aspects, and avoid either total liberalization or prohibition.

Current system not completely working

One serious issue remains in Finland – problem gamblers. A recent report from the National Institute of Health and Welfare (THI) was found that the country has a challenge regarding problem gamblers. There is a possibility that the Finnish state and online operators could help to curb the development. They could follow suit of neighboring country Sweden, which now has a national register to block self-registered users from all gambling sites with a Swedish gambling license.

Current figures suggest that there are at least 124,000 people with gambling issues in Finland. According to THL’s latest statistics, fewer men are playing, but the number of women gambling is increasing. Most of these problem gamblers are affected by online gambling. Finns lost $300m to foreign online casinos in 2018.

The rest of the world is currently watching to see what solution the Finns can bring.