BOJOKO: Why it is time for Finland to end its online gambling monopoly
Joonas Karhu, Chief Business Officer at Bojoko.com, discusses the advantages of the Finnish government opening up its online gambling market to other licensed operators.
The success of regulated and licensed online casino in Sweden has caught the eye of neighbouring Finland where discussions continue to be had around ending its gambling monopoly.
Just as the Swedish market used to be dominated by Svenska Spel, in Finland state-owned operator Veikkaus rules supreme over the country’s gambling market.
But just as was the case in Sweden, it is better to not enforce a monopoly and instead allow players to wager at a range of different sites that are licensed and reputable. Ultimately the state-run monopoly approach to online gambling does not sufficiently protect players and also deprives the country of additional tax income, jobs and other benefits.
Below, I discuss the current state of play in Finland and why I believe the calls for ending the monopoly and embracing regulation and licensing should be answered.
The current state of play:
Gambling in Finland is currently controlled by Veikkaus, including land-based and online play for casino, poker, lottery, keno and sports betting. Land-based gambling takes place at casinos, betting shops, kiosks, pubs, petrol stations and other venues while online gambling takes place via the official Veikkaus website.
Players in Finland can legally wager at any online casino they chose, so long as that operator accepts players from the country. This approach is ultimately bad for players and bad for Finland. There is not guarantee consumers are playing at reputable sites, nor is the country benefiting from tax revenues amongst other things.
Why Finland should embrace online gambling regulation and licensing:
The main reason why Finland should end its online gambling monopoly and regulated and license the sector is so the government can ensure players are properly protected.
At present, they can wager anywhere online and there is absolutely no guarantee the operator offers things like fund protection and tools to help them stay in control of their play. By opening the market up to outside operators but requiring them to obtain a licence, the Finnish regulator can ensure online gambling organisations meet the highest possible standards.
In Sweden, for example, we have seen some of the largest and most respected online gambling brands enter the market. I’m talking about operators like PlayOJO, 888casino, Casumo, LeoVegas, Mr Green and Videoslots all of which go to great lengths to protect and support their players. In addition to this, the Finnish government could boost its tax coffers with revenues from online casino activity which would likely run into the tens of millions of Euros per year.
Some have suggested that opening up the market will take revenues away from Veikkaus and the good causes it supports, but in reality, I believe this won’t be the case. Regulating the market and allowing more operators to participate will bring players that access other online gambling sites to those that are vetted and licensed by the regulator.
A thriving online gambling industry will create infrastructure and jobs in Finland. Operators and suppliers will want to set up shop in the country, bringing investment and employment with them. These are all tremendous upsides that at present Finland and Finnish online gambling players are not able to take advantage of.
Lessons learned in Sweden:
If the Finnish government does decide to take steps towards regulating and licensing its online gambling sector, looking to Sweden for a workable blueprint is not a bad idea at all. Sweden has done a great job of opening its doors to new operators while also ensuring players are protected to the highest possible level.
That said, there has been some confusion around how operators can market to players, which in turn has seen some big-name brands receive substantial fines. This has mostly been around not being able to provide players on-going incentives after the initial welcome bonus they are permitted to offer. Those that have offered loyalty schemes, tournaments and other things that encourage players to keep wagering have found themselves under scrutiny.
Of course, Finland might not take the same approach – in the highly regulated UK market operators can offer on-going promotions – so it is more about making regulations clear for operators. While there is always room for interpretation, clear and concise rules of engagement ultimately make operating in the market easier for all concerned.
For me, ending the Veikkaus monopoly and regulating and licensing online gambling in Finland is a no brainer and as discussions continue, I don’t think I am the only one to hold this view.