Finland’s online gamblers will now be subjected to strict monthly loss limits for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic, while lottery draws will be suspended entirely.
On Tuesday, Finland’s Interior Ministry announced that the ‘fast-paced gambling games’ available from local gambling monopoly Veikkaus would now be subject to monthly per customer loss limits of €500, down from their previous cap of €2k.
The online limits, which will take effect on May 1 and extend through September 30, will apply to eBingo, virtual betting and online slots and table games (excluding poker). The limits will also apply to online lotteries, although all lottery draws will be temporarily suspended as of May 4. Players will also be required to set their own daily and monthly loss limits that cannot exceed the maximum stated above.
Minister Maria Ohisalo said the new limits were necessary to reduce the potential for gambling harm and would persist even if the pandemic threat recedes before September 30, based on her belief that “consumers’ financial difficulties as a result of the epidemic are likely to continue for longer.”
The limits, which follow similar proposals in Sweden, are a further blow to Veikkaus’ operations, which were already struggling following the forced shutdown of its land-based slots and arcade operations in mid-March. Last week, the company stated that its weekly gaming revenue was currently below €20m, about €10m shy of what it expected to earn pre-pandemic.
Worse, Veikkaus said it has yet to see any great migration of land-based gamblers to its online options. While online casino revenue was up around €1.5m since the pandemic took hold, the cancellation of most live sports events pushed betting revenue down €4.5m. New customer registrations have risen by 50% but spending per customer was at “the level they were on prior to the pandemic.”
As gambling operators in neighboring Sweden have concluded, the lack of a surge in online activity during the pandemic suggests that local gamblers are choosing to seek out internationally licensed gambling sites that in most cases offer better value for customers.
The Interior Ministry acknowledged the likelihood of a flood of customers to international sites following the new loss limits. Saaramia Varvio, who heads up the National Police Board’s Lottery Administration, said police would monitor social media for unauthorized gambling promos and will impose “control measures against TV channels from abroad” to further limit Finland’s gamblers exposure to online alternatives.