A Finnish government minister has said there is large cross-party support for the introduction of an online gambling licensing regime.
However, Tytti Tuppurainen, the minister of European affairs and ownership steering, still wants lottery and gambling machines to remain under Veikkaus’ monopoly despite wanting to explore possible online licensing regimes.
The minister, who has responsibility for policy relating to state-owned companies, said foreign operators currently act as if Finland is a “wild grey market” and that the situation is “twisting the taxman’s hand” as the country loses out financially.
“I myself hastened to make a report on a possible transition to a multi-permit system. It is only a good thing that the opposition also shares this perception,” Tuppurainen added.
The minister believes that if work begins on a new gambling system soon after the start of 2023, the next government can outline the transition to a licensing system.
Parliamentary elections are planned to be held in Finland on April 2, 2023.
Her comments were made in an interview published by local media outlet MTV Uutiset on December 29.
The current government is a coalition formed by several parties, including the Social Democrat Party (SDP), which has the most seats in parliament.
Even as recently as November 2022, a spokesperson for the SDP told VIXIO GamblingCompliance that its official position was to back the monopoly.
Tuppurainen’s latest comments as a member of the SDP mark a public shift from this stance, which was welcomed by Sari Multala, a fellow MP and member of the opposition party Kokoumum.
“Before a political decision, an extensive investigation is needed. The transition to a licensing system requires extensive legislative changes,” Multala added.
Mikko Cantell, the chief inspector of gambling regulator the National Police Board, said he could not comment on the debate surrounding the gambling system as it is a political process.
Last year, the debate around exclusive rights reached a fever pitch after Olli Saarikoski, the CEO of Veikkaus, said the government needed to explore other systems if it continues to see its market share decline to unlicensed operators.
The CEO’s comments came after a report revealed that the monopoly’s market share fell by 5 percent compared with the same period in the previous year and it is now nearing 50 percent, which Saarikoski called a “critical limit”.
Following the revelation, many lobbyists were buoyed by increased political pressure on the exclusive rights model and recently appeared extremely confident that the Finnish state will move to break up its online exclusive rights system and echo moves by Sweden and Denmark by licensing private companies.
However, Jari Vahanen, a former Veikkaus executive now of Finnish Gambling Consultants, called Tuppurainen’s desire to keep some land-based gambling under monopoly control “old-fashioned”, arguing that in the future it may be difficult to distinguish between digital and retail channels.
He explained that the expectations have been that the new government, likely to start in the summer, would begin preparing a new gambling system.
“However, it seems that the current government will set up a preparatory group to plan the best gambling system model for Finland,” Vahanen said.
If this happens, he believes the new government will be able to make decisions on the matter by “the fall of this year”, adding that “it could be possible for Finland's new system to enter into force as early as the beginning of 2025”.
Finland’s new Lottery Act came into effect on January 1, 2022; however, some parts of the law were introduced at the beginning of 2023, such as empowering the National Police Board to begin payment blocking.