Finnish Gambling Industry Optimistic New Regime Will Not Be Unfriendly

June 10, 2024
The Finnish gambling industry expects the government to propose a “relatively liberal” online gambling licensing regime, the head of an online gambling trade group has said.

The Finnish gambling industry expects the government to propose a “relatively liberal” online gambling licensing regime, the head of an online gambling trade group has said.

Indications are that gambling advertising and sponsorships will be allowed and loss limits will not be obligatory, as they are in some European countries, said Mika Kuismanen, chief executive of the Finnish Trade Association for Online Gambling.

A draft bill to lay the groundwork for a licensing regime that would launch in early 2026 is expected within a month, he said.

After that comes six to eight weeks of consultations, with parliamentary debate expected from Spring 2025, he said.

Kuismanen was speaking last week at the iGaming Germany conference in Munich, where Germany-focused participants might have envied an outlook as optimistic as his.

The German industry complains about high taxes, €1 slots stakes with five-second delays, a convoluted process for approval of slots games and a separation of online slots and table games that has fuelled a large black market.

The industry blames that combination of tight restrictions for what might be the one of the world’s only online gambling tax regimes that is losing ground.

Finland could be a lucrative market for online gambling. It expects to dismantle one of the last remaining comprehensive gambling monopolies in Europe, and Finns are among the top three biggest per capita spenders on gambling in the continent.

Although online gambling operators are excited about the prospects for applying for a licence, they are worried about the possibility of getting handicapped versus the big player in the market, the trade group CEO said.

Veikkaus, the current monopoly operator, has supported a licensing programme in part because its online market share has dropped as low as 40 percent, a step that cheered the online gambling industry.

But Veikkaus CEO Olli Sarekoski has said he also supports a “Dutch-style” cooling-off system that would handicap companies that have Finnish customers today.

In the run-up to licensing, aspirants to a Dutch online gambling licence were barred from applying for 33 months after they stopped making a "specific and active” approaches to Dutch residents.

A government minister then surprised the industry by increasing the pressure, telling the Netherlands Gambling Authority to crack down on any operator who did not pull out of the market completely. 

Speaking on the sidelines of the the event in Munch, Kuismanen told Vixio GamblingCompliance that his seven members, which include Entain and Flutter, are following guidelines calling for no solicitations in Finnish, and no advertising and marketing in Finland.

The group has hired two European Union law professors to buttress its argument that the playing field should be equal between what is currently a government-owned monopoly and private companies, he said.

If, as expected, Veikkaus is split into two, with one part remaining a government-owned national lottery operator and the other becoming an entity to compete for online casino and sports betting with private operators, the non-monopoly unit should not be allowed to use its extensive database, he said.

If it is allowed to use that database, the trade group will argue that the private companies should be able to use their existing databases, he said.

But the trade group remains optimistic, Kuismanen said.

“I expect a reasonably fair” gambling regime, he said.

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