Finland’s 'Ambitious' Licensing Plan Could Be Implemented In Stages, Says Experts

June 22, 2023
Finland’s aim to have a licensing system in place by January 1, 2026 is “ambitious” and could lead to some measures being introduced at a later date, according to a panel of experts from the country.


UPDATE 11:30 - Comments by Jan Hagelberg amended.

Finland’s aim to have a licensing system in place by January 1, 2026 is “ambitious” and could lead to some measures being introduced at a later date, according to a panel of experts from the country.

The timeline, which was outlined in the government negotiation program published last week, was a focal point during a discussion on the future of the Finnish market at iGaming NEXT Valletta 2023 on Wednesday (June 21).

Jan Hagelberg, chief product officer at Veikkaus Oy, said the “ambitious” date could certainly not be “set any sooner” by the government.

Theoretical delays include the possibility of creating a centralised monitoring system, as suggested by a Finnish competition authority report, which “could prolong the introduction of licensing”, as could suggestions for limits on players, according to Hagelberg.

“In the recent preliminary study, there were lots of references to existing rules. If you try and end up with something in the middle of what we have in place now, there will need to be a lot more conversations on it. The government programme said January 1, 2026. Introducing a new law takes around 28 months in Finland, so there is not a lot of room there,” Hagelberg said.

Hagelberg warned that a licensing launch after 2026 would be a “failure”, but said the likely alternative would be licensing introduced in the Summer of 2026.

Mikko Post, senior affiliate manager at kwiff, similarly thinks the timeline is “optimistic” and that a situation similar to what developed in the German market could occur in Finland, where taxes and other regulatory frameworks are in place but licences are not awarded until later in the year.

Antti Koivula, legal advisor at Legal Gaming Attorneys at Law agreed that the timeline is “optimistic”, but explained that licensing “has to be ready by 2026” due to the government negotiations, which he says hopefully “don’t give a lot of room for political opposition to put in roadblocks”.

However, Koivula added that some parts of the regulation could be introduced at a later date, such as a possible B2B licence, which was suggested in the preliminary study.

Jaakko Soininen from platform provider Finnplay said he was “surprised” at the inclusion of B2B licensing in the preliminary report.

It suggested “key suppliers” be licensed and somehow regulated, but there is no clear definition about what are “key suppliers”. As a platform provider, Finnplay would probably fall under that definition, he said.

"The benefits of B2B licence have yet to be seen,” Soininen said.

When it comes to marketing, Soininen argued that Finnish lawmakers should look to favour the regulated market, as it “needs to attract business or it will push people towards the black market".

The preliminary study stated that licensees should be able to market gambling products, but its volume and content should be limited.

Post hopes that there are “appropriate opportunities” for operators, including allowing sponsoring sports teams.

“I was a bit baffled that the report had no motion on affiliate marketing. If you look at the gambling industry ecosystem, affiliates play a huge part in that. I don't think they realised ... as it doesn't really exist in Finland at the moment, it could have gone under the radar,” Post said.

Hagelberg hopes there will be roundtable discussions on advertising between operators, regulators and other stakeholders to find some kind of “sweet spot" to “avoid extremes”.

“If marketing is too loud, it's not good. But if you can’t market at all, it's also not ideal,” Hagelberg said.

When it comes to a cooling off period, Hagelberg believes there would be “many legal things to sort out”.

However, Soininen went a step further, explaining that “Finland will never have a cooling off period”.

“Doing laws in Finland is ridiculous, if there is any issue it wont pass. Cooling off period would not pass the committee stage. If you try to add it to the law, the law will not fly.”

All of the panellists agree, the devil is in the details, which have yet to be finalised.

Despite this, Veikkaus is still “seeing lots of things to do”.

“We have to form new companies, think about tech, staffing. It's a massive job. We are a company that has a culture and attitude to be ready for whatever the conditions are,” Hagelberg said.

Speaking on a separate panel covering Scandinavia and the Netherlands, the CEO of the Finnish Trade Association for Online Gambling (Rahapeliala Ry), Mika Kuismanen, said that the country still has a “hostile” environment towards foreign gambling operators.

Kuismanen urged the industry to work with civil servants and the Police Board to ensure it “finally has a good system”.

“We are a sad case. An example of if you postpone reform too long you will lose players to the black market. Now its market share is 50 percent. It will be a hard job to get those players back. A 90 percent channelling rate would take time and require a lot of new measures,” Kuismanen said.

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