Betsson subsidiary BML Group Ltd has won at least a temporary reprieve from the record €2.4m fine levied against it in Finland, after a court ruled it should be suspended pending appeals.
BML Group appealed the decision, which was termed a conditional fine, and won after the Helsinki Administrative Court ruled on June 2 that the National Police Board (NPB) must wait to enforce the order and fine it issued against the company until the appeals process against the enforcement action is finished.
The fine was imposed on April 7 for marketing gambling services in Finland.
At the time, the board stated: “To comply with the prohibition, BML Group Ltd. must refrain from publishing new sales promotion material targeting mainland Finland on its gambling websites, remove all previously published sales promotion material from them, and refrain from marketing on other websites in the future as well.”
Mikko Cantell, chief inspector of gambling regulator the National Police Board, said he is not worried by the postponement.
“The court’s interim decision does not in our interpretation predict the court’s eventual reasoning or outcome of the ruling on the matter one way or another,” he told VIXIO GamblingCompliance.
“We take it as a reasonable measure to protect the appellant’s rights while the court process is still underway. The court in its interim decision simply stated that the National Police Board’s prohibition decision does not enter into force while BML Group Ltd’s appeal is being processed in the court, or until the court makes a further decision on the matter.”
The Finnish regulator has recently stepped up action after being granted new powers as of January 1 this year, including an increased ability to block payments.
Its more aggressive stance is set against the contrasting backdrop of likely legal reforms in Finland that would see Veikkaus' monopoly for online gambling dismantled in favour of a licensing system.
Minna Ripatti, founding partner at Legal Gaming Attorneys at Law, said that the decision weakens the effectiveness of the police board in its new effort to block payment service providers (PSPs).
“It is important to consider the potential broader implications of cases such as the one concerning Betsson,” she said.
“Finland is currently contemplating the introduction of a licensing system for the first time, and the possibility of implementing a cooling-off period remains under discussion.
“The inclusion of such a provision is still being considered as part of the overall licensing framework, and if we will see one, it may impact on those companies having been issued a prohibition against them in close proximity to the introduction of the new regulation, not to mention those with pending court cases."
Betsson did not return a request for comment in time for publication.
There is broad political support for dismantling the monopoly, including from the winner of the recent general election and Veikkaus itself. However, some government departments continue to advocate for it to remain in place.
On Monday (June 5), the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health published a report in favour of keeping the monopoly, but “developing” it.
The minister cited Norway’s monopoly and a study from the University of Bergen that found the number of gambling problems has decreased in Norway by half since 2019.
The administrative court could take between six and 18 months to deliver a decision in this case. Should it reach the Supreme Administrative Court, as Ripatti predicts, it could take even longer.