The Secretary General of the European Gaming and Betting Association (EGBA), Maarten Haijer, has raised questions about the efficacy of Veikkaus, Finland’s gambling monopoly.
Haijer, writing for the EGBA, called on the Finnish government to ‘fix’ its gambling strategy, stressing that both the players and the government had very little to give to preserve this monopoly.
He clarified that the current monopoly system is losing popularity among Finns, with opinion polls indicating that many would prefer to replace Veikkaus with an open-license system, allowing, as is the case in the rest of Europe, multiple gambling companies to join the market.
Haijer said: “One of the biggest problems with Finland’s gambling policy is that a monopoly system is impossible to maintain in the online world because of the ease which consumers can go from one website to another in today’s global e-marketplace. This means that more choice or alternatives to Veikkaus can easily found on the internet with international betting websites.”
With more Finnish players preferring to gamble through non-licensed operators in Finland, questions have been posed about player safety, channelling and tax revenue contributions. Finns invested 16.4 percent of Finland’s online gambling revenue last year, equal to EUR 105 million in taxable profits, on foreign betting websites that pay their taxes elsewhere.
Previously, the Finnish government argued that Veikkaus was willing to shield bettors. Haijer, however, denied these arguments, arguing that it is a myth that the gamblers of Finland are better protected by a monopoly,” pointing to how the problem gambling rate of the country stands at 3 percent. This rate is ten times higher than Spain, a nation described as a country with no gambling monopoly and far more gamblers than Finland’ by the EGBA Secretary General.
He continued: “The Finnish government has long justified its monopoly with its belief that the state is better placed to protect consumers. If that were true, Finland should have the lowest rate of problem gambling in the EU since it is the only member state with a state-run gambling monopoly. Spoiler alert: this is not the case.
“There is no compelling evidence that Finns are in any way better protected that their European counterparts because of the country’s online gambling monopoly – it’s a myth.”
Haijer pointed to other Nordic countries that have historically benefited from ending their monopolies on gambling. Denmark launched an open licencing scheme in 2012 to replace its long-running monopoly, and subsequent market competition resulted in a decrease in the amount of Danish online gambling on unlicensed websites from 28 percent to 8 percent between 2012 and 2019. Meanwhile, Danske Spil, the former monopoly of Denmark, saw its sales triple.
In 2020, when the country’s monopoly was abolished the year before, a similar pattern occurred in Sweden. The number of Swedes using international online betting firms dropped from 56 percent in 2016 to 15 percent in 2020.
Haijer stressed that the reasonable way to meet the demands of those Finnish gamblers who seek an alternative to the monopoly and currently gamble on international gambling websites is to replace Veikkaus’ monopoly with an open licence scheme, and to control and tax this operation.
He added: “Introducing open-licensing for online gambling is not revolutionary, it is evolutionary, and will ensure that most Finns gamble in a regulated and protected environment. But adapted to the realities of our times.
“All other EU countries have already done this, it makes sense, and it’s time for Finland to do the same.”