Gambling Regulations in Europe and Finland: Cons and Pros
The gambling industry is a significant part of the leisure industry in most European countries. Not only does it make large contributions to the economy, but it also provides a major pastime for millions of people on the European continent. To protect the public health and lower the percentage of the gambling maladies afflicting gamblers, the European Union has long attempted to adopt legislation and regulation that would standardize betting and gaming throughout Europe.
The EU has so far failed to enforce one gambling law in all European countries. Motivated by their own economic and political interests, the countries comprising the European Union vehemently insist on controlling their gambling industries by themselves, declining the EU’s invitation to unite. However angrily the European Union frowns upon the state monopoly on gambling in Finland, for example, Finland does not yield to its pleas to be more considerate to foreign operators. Responding to the EU’s disapproving letters with firm refusals, Finland retains the state monopoly on gambling and shows no signs of budging in the near future.
Each European country is thus free to administer its own gambling laws. Their juridical independence makes it difficult to generalize about the European gambling legislation: gambling laws should be discussed in each country separately. And yet, there is one common denominator in all countries. The laws they enact are not concerned with individual players but focus rather on the business of gambling. They are directed at those who operate casinos or run bookmaking. Some countries, such as the United Kingdom, for example, leave room for private gambling companies, asking them only to obtain required licenses.
Other countries, among which is Finland, permit only state-governed monopolies and outlaw all private enterprises. Although now Finns can legally access unlicensed foreign gambling websites, the Finnish government constantly talks about banning them and might implement its threats in the future. If you are interested in learning about the Finnish gambling regulations in-depth, please go to nettikasinot.com, the Finnish authority gambling website. There you will find detailed information about the current state of the gambling monopoly in Finland, which we are also briefly explaining in the paragraphs below.
Gambling Laws in Finland
Owned by the government, the gambling industry in Finland was always sliced into three parts, each of which was supervised by a different company. Until 2017, the casino industry was operated by RAY (The Finnish Slot Machine Association), the lottery was administered by Veikkaus, and horse betting was run by Fintoto. On January 1, 2017, the three entities joined forces and formed a larger state monopoly now called Veikkaus. The betting agency regulates both land-based and online casinos in Finland.
There are two brick-and-mortar casinos in Finland. Located in Helsinki, the larger casino attracts players with 300 slot machines, 32 live gaming tables, and a well-equipped Poker room. The smaller one is the PAF Casino at the Arkipelag Hotel & Casino in Mariehamn, the capital of the Aland Islands. There is also another casino expected to be opened this year in Tampere. In addition to casinos, there are numerous “Feel Vegas” slot halls scattered across the country. Table games in these halls are played at lower costs.
Licensed gambling websites recognized by the Finnish government are run by PAF and RAY, with the former controlling online gambling in the Aland Province and the latter monitoring the Finnish mainland. Not only are the Finnish online casinos fully licensed but they are also highly secured. The Finnish government takes all necessary measures to protect players’ data, such as maximum wagers, self-exclusion measures, and restriction to operating hours. Players must be at least 18 years of age. They also must be registered to start gambling, have a Finnish bank account, a Finnish security number, and a permanent address in mainland Finland. Players are also required to set daily and monthly loss limits. The maximum daily loss limit is €500 for both slot machines and table games.
Dealing with unlicensed foreign gambling websites proves to be more problematic for the government. Officially, foreign gaming websites are not permitted in Finland. Players, however, easily gamble with foreign operators and make monetary transactions to them, since placing bets with unlicensed foreign websites is not forbidden in Finland. There is no law in the country that considers wagering on unlicensed websites a criminal offence. Nor can the government block unlicensed websites. In order to rein in their activities, the government can only ban the advertisement of their services in the country.
Finland also plans to IP-block gambling websites and restrict money transfers to and from them, but there are parties in the country that vehemently oppose the planned regulation. This suggests that it will not be enacted in the near future. Meanwhile, unlicensed foreign websites continue accepting the Finnish players, offering them poker games, scratch cards, lottery, sports betting, esports, roulette, and themed slots. Some of them even translate their websites into Finnish to facilitate Finns’ interaction with their gambling machines.
Following the complaint made by Finland’s National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) that people are not asked to show their IDs when playing on slot machines in supermarkets and at petrol stations, the government has promised to reform the existing Act on Lotteries. From 2023 on, gambling providers will need to identify their customers. Players will be required to open a Veikkaus gaming account, without which they will not be able to access slot machines. If enacted, this regulation will exclude foreign players from gambling on slot machines, because Veikkaus will open its accounts only to those who permanently reside in Finland. Only in Veikkaus’ own casinos and gambling halls will foreigners play without a gaming account.
These will be significant steps towards healing gambling addictions widespread among the Finns, but critics say that Finland should change its gambling regulations more drastically. They think that Finland should follow Sweden’s and Denmark’s examples and renounce its gambling monopoly. Like other countries, Finland should allow gambling companies to operate on a license base. It seems to be the right time for the Finnish government to start revising its gambling regulations.
By Miruna Secuianu