Finland: A missed opportunity for overdue gambling reform
The Finnish government’s proposal to introduce payment blockings for online gambling has been approved by the country’s parliament but, with its introduction, policymakers have missed an opportunity for meaningful and overdue gambling reform in the country.
On 14 December, Finland’s parliament approved an amended version of a government proposal to introduce blocking measures for payment service providers (PSP) with the aim of restricting Finns from accessing non-Finnish gambling websites. The government justifies the PSP blockings on consumer protection grounds, but critics argue it will restrict consumer freedoms and choice.
Today, Finland is the only EU member state which still has an exclusive online gambling monopoly model, but its monopoly has come under increasing public scrutiny in recent years and increasing pressure from the demand of the country’s gamblers for more online consumer choice. The government’s proposed PSP blockings, part of a group of amendments to the country’s Lottery Act, seeks to address this by blocking Finns’ payments to and from non-Finnish gambling websites.
This week, a majority in the country’s parliament agreed on an amendment to block only those payment transactions from Finnish gamblers to non-Finnish gambling websites and not vice versa. This was after parliamentarians had raised several concerns about the proposals, including concern that blocking players winnings would be unconstitutional. Following the parliament’s approval, the amended Lottery Act will now come into force from 1January 2022 and the new payment blockings will be introduced at the start of 2023.
Experience from other countries shows that PSP and other blockings do not significantly affect consumer demand and, with its introduction, EGBA believes that policymakers have missed an opportunity for meaningful and overdue gambling reform in Finland. At the same time, EGBA welcomes the growing discussion both in the country’s parliament and in wider society about the future of Finland’s gambling policy. EGBA members are established, licensed, and regulated in most EU member states and would welcome the opportunity to apply for a license, be regulated, and pay taxes in Finland – but are still prevented from doing so by the country’s current gambling laws.
“The introduction of PSP blockings is an implicit admission that many of Finland’s gamblers prefer to bet on other websites rather than that of the state-run monopoly. There are many reasons why they do so: the availability of better betting odds, and better diversity and expertise in the products offered, are to name a few. In the online world, consumers vote with their feet and that is why we will continue to encourage the government to rethink, rather than reinforce, the country’s online gambling monopoly model and advocate for the benefits of establishing a well-regulated, multi-licensing model for online gambling in Finland.” – Maarten Haijer.
- In September 2021, EGBA hosted a webinar discussion: At a crossroads: The future of Finland’s gambling policy.
 During the parliamentary deliberations a number of its committees provided their view on the PSP proposals, with the Constitutional Committee finding “the attempt to protect exclusive rights (the gambling monopoly), even if indirectly linked to the objectives of the prevention and control of gambling harm underlying the bill, does not constitute a sufficient basis for such a far-reaching restriction of fundamental rights (PSP blockings)” and the Administrative Committee proposing a government inquiry to determine if the gambling monopoly should end.
The European Gaming and Betting Association (EGBA) is the Brussels-based trade association representing the leading online gaming and betting operators established, licensed and regulated within the EU, including bet365, Betsson Group, Entain, Flutter, Kindred Group, and William Hill. The Swedish Trade Association for Online Gambling (BOS) is also an affiliate member. EGBA works together with national and EU regulatory authorities and other stakeholders towards a well-regulated and well-channelled online gambling market which provides a high level of consumer protection and takes into account the realities of the internet and online consumer demand. EGBA member companies meet the highest regulatory standards and have 145 online gambling licenses to provide their services to 16 million customers in 17 different European countries. Currently EGBA members account for 25% of Europe’s online gambling gross gaming revenue (GGR).