Finlands Veikkaus Negotiates Staff Layoffs As Pandemic Continues

Veikkaus Finland’s gaming monopoly is negotiating layoffs with hundreds of workers as the new wave of the pandemic shuts down the retail slots operations of the company.

Veikkaus revealed on Friday that it was starting ‘cooperation negotiations’ with its retail workers on ‘potential temporary layoffs, rather than permanent staff cuts.’ The layoffs would affect about 800 employees, many of whom could face up to three months of idle time.

The announcement comes after a series of warnings concerning the retail slot machine network of the monopoly as well as its own gambling halls. On Monday, Finnish medical authorities announced that pandemic infection rates had reached a “accelerating phase” in the Central Ostrobothnia area, prompting Veikkaus to shut down its local retail operations.

In the regions of South Karelia and South Savo on Wednesday, the same acceleration was observed, leading Veikkaus to declare the immediate suspension of retail operations in the affected areas.

Veikkaus Senior VP of Channels & Sales Jari Heino said Friday that COVID-19 had “driven the entire society to the wall” and the health of our employees and customers” had to be the main concern of the business.

Heino added that there was no indication of when the shuttered retail operations could be reopened, so that the staff negotiations are intended for all concerned to “realise the best possible plans and solutions.

The closures would further reduce Veikkaus’ 2020 sales estimates, which have already been expected to fall below previous forecasts by EUR 300 million. By promoting its digital offering, which unlike land-based operations, has strong competition from internationally licenced sites, Veikkaus has been trying to reduce its reliance on its land-based slots.

The land-based operations of Veikkaus may be a revenue winner, but they are also the source of several PR issues for the group. (Finns are among the largest per capita gambling spenders in Europe and much of that is earned by Veikkaus slots.) By the end of this year, Veikkaus has accelerated its timetable to reduce its total machine count from 18,500 to 10,500, while slots jockeys will be limited to account-based play beginning in January.