Article published on March 13, 2014

Local Gambling Monopolies Look To Finnish Studies For Protection

By: Harper Whitefield

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Policy in Finland made known their plans to study ways to prevent unauthorized internet gambling sites from taking the business of Finnish gamers outside of the country.

At present, there is nothing keeping players there from seeking out places to drop their wagers with sites licensed internationally. It almost goes without saying that putting up walls to prevent outside entities from taking away internal business would certainly mean a rise in revenue for the casinos and tax takings for the government.

Currently, the country's internal gambling consists of facilities controlled by four companies. PAF alone holds control of the betting in the self-governed Åland island area located in the Baltic Sea, at the mouth of the Gulf of Bothnia between Finland and Sweden with a population slightly above 28000. Finoto's grasp extends to all horse racing taking place at the 43 tracks across the country. More than 18000 slot machines in Finland fall under RAY's jurisdiction. Lotto, Keno, Scratch, Sports betting, among many other wagering options are held by Veikkaus Oy.

With the final proposals expected to be seen by the end of this year, the Committee has so far not been looking to keep foreign gambling channels from taking away business from the local companies by outright blockages or stopping transfer of cash but rather taking away the availability of advertising for them within the company. This would involve the application of licensing requirements on the media outlets within Finland.

The European Commission announced in November 2013 that, after accounting for the changes made to the Finnish Lottery Act, Finland's monopolized gambling infrastructure was not in violation of guidelines set forth by the European Guidelines. This bodes well for the companies which have been posting their fiscal year profit numbers showing slides and gains across their various activities.

For example, Veikkaus Oy displayed an overall revenue rise of 4.6% to €1.86 billion, with a total of 1.1% growth in profit amounting to €506.3 million. This overall view does not show the finer points such as web-based gambling increasing to be 36.3% of their total takings, the rise in sports games to €403.9 million and daily games to €657.4 million, or the drop in pot sports proceeds to €797 million. Similarly, RAY saw a profit rise of 2.8%, €791.4 million on the whole. More specifically, approximately 75% of their income came from slot machines, a 1% climb to €593.3 million, despite Casino Helsinki slipping by 3% and other casino games located in restaurants falling by 2.8%. The gambling arcades directly owned and operated by RAY fared better with a €96.1 million, 1.2%, raise over the previous year. The impressive gain for this company was their online gaming enterprises which amounted to more than €60 million with a 21.5% rise over 2012.

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