Finland’s Veikkaus to cull more land-based slots, turn focus online


finland-veikkaus-culling-more-slot-machinesFinland’s state-run Veikkaus gambling monopoly is accelerating plans to dramatically reduce its number of slot machines after determining that its original plans were “not enough.”

On Thursday, Veikkaus delivered its latest financial report, which showed sales of €2.23b – 43% of which came via digital channels – in the nine months through September 30, down 4.1% from the same period last year. Revenue was down 2.1% to €1.27b while profit managed to rise 1.3% to €762.2m thanks to tighter cost controls.

Veikkaus CEO Olli Sarekoski acknowledged that 2019 “has been challenging businesswise so far.” The year began on a sour note as Veikkaus called time on its struggling restaurant gaming table operations and laid off around 400 staff.

Sarekoski noted that the company’s operations and the country’s monopoly gambling model was the subject of “heated public discussion” this year. Much of that discussion followed some truly ill-advised radio ads the company aired this summer that urged individuals who felt an impulse to gamble to scratch that itch by enjoying Veikkaus products.

Finns were already questioning the wisdom of retaining Veikkaus’ gambling monopoly before those ads aired but the calls for a more open licensing regime only accelerated after that.

Veikkaus previously announced plans to reduce the number of slots in shops, restaurants, gas stations and other venues from its current 18,500 to 15,000. On Thursday, Veikkaus went further, saying it would cull a further 4,500 machines by 2025.

Veikkaus also said it was accelerating plans to impose mandatory customer identification at its slots by January 2021, one year ahead of its original schedule. The plan will enable individuals to permanently prohibit their ability to play slots and Veikkaus estimates that the annual impact on the company’s slots turnover will be between €100m-€150m. Similar identity requirements will be imposed on all Veikkaus products (except lottery scratch cards) by 2023.

But while Veikkaus is taking steps to reduce its land-based presence, the company said Thursday that it intends to “focus more and more strongly on the digital channel” in order to compete with internationally licensed sites serving Finnish customers.