Finland’s Veikkaus fights calls for end to gambling monopoly


finland-veikkaus-slots-gambling-monopolyFinland’s political parties want the state-run gambling monopoly Veikkaus to speed up social responsibility programs for its slot machines, while Veikkaus tries to head off calls for a more open gambling market.

On Wednesday, Finnish media outlet YLE reported that the majority of Finland’s political parties were in favor of (a) reducing access to slot machines, and (b) accelerating the rollout of mandatory customer identification before slots play is permitted.

Sirpa Paatero, a member of the Social Democratic Party and the Minister of Local Government and Ownership Steering, said she would be “meeting with Veikkaus earlier than originally planned” to discuss how to accelerate the slots identity program, which isn’t supposed to be in place until 2022. The program, which Veikkaus has estimated could trim its annual revenue by as much as €170m, will also allow slots jockeys to set limits for both money spent and time spent playing.

Several parties also indicated support for a citizens’ initiative that would restrict slots to dedicated gaming halls and remove machines from restaurants, gas stations and other retail venues (including some attached to hospitals). Veikkaus currently has 18,600 slots in operation across Finland, a mere 100 units lower than its legislated maximum.

Veikkaus recently established an ethics board to help it make more responsible decisions, such as not running radio ads encouraging frequent gamblers to satisfy their gambling cravings by betting on the ponies. That marketing own goal encouraged many more Finns to suggest it was time to end Veikkaus’ monopoly in favor of a more openly competitive market.

On Wednesday, Veikkaus’ exec VP Velippekka Nummikoski pushed back against its critics, including Senja Larsen, a journalist at business media outlet Kauppalehti. On Wednesday, Larsen published a 20-point takedown of Veikkaus, as well as the government’s reliance on gambling revenue and Finland’s status as the third-highest per capita gambling spending nation.

Nummikoski’s blog response claimed that a competitive gambling market would result in lower returns to government coffers (and thus less benefit to Finnish society), less effective responsible gambling controls and more gambling in general.

Despite his company’s recent advertising cockup, Nummikoski insisted that Veikkaus’ advertising budget was less than 1.5% of its turnover, “certainly the smallest” in the industry. Nummikoski pointed to neighboring Sweden as to the dangers a competitive market can present in terms of the volume of gambling advertising.