Finnish Parliament Approves Gambling Law Amendments

December 15, 2021
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​​​​​​​The Finnish parliament has approved the government’s proposal to amend gambling laws, including a modified version of its payment blocking plan.

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The Finnish parliament has approved the government’s proposal to amend gambling laws, including a modified version of its payment blocking plan.

Most of the proposed changes will enter into force on January 1, 2022 and a proposed new payment blocking scheme will be introduced at the start of 2023.

The National Police Board will play an enlarged role in the industry under the new plans and is set to receive additional funding in order to increase its supervision of the gambling sector and take enforcement action against illegal operators.

Once the new payment blocking powers are in force, the National Police Board will also begin to compile a blacklist of unlicensed operators, as well as companies breaching marketing bans.

A new administrative penalty system will accompany these new enforcement powers in order to allow fines to be levied against companies breaching marketing laws.

Under the proposal, gambling advertising must be “moderate” and games deemed “particularly harmful”, such as slots, will not be allowed to advertise.

Marketing fines may be avoided if the company infringing on the law takes immediate and sufficient action to address it or if a conditional fine from the same infringement has already been enforced, according to Antti Koivula, a consulting legal advisor at Legal Gaming who told VIXIO GamblingCompliance this was one of the major changes made after the proposal was originally submitted to parliament.

“Payment blocking will only cover transactions from Finnish consumers to black listed gambling companies and not vice versa,” Koivula added.

Under the original proposal, payment service providers would have also been required to block payments from unlicensed operators to Finnish consumers.

However, the Constitutional Committee opinion on the proposal released on December 7 declared “the attempt to protect exclusive rights, 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”.

In response to the opinion, the Administration Committee removed parts of the proposal regarding its payment blocking scheme, as well as a few other changes.

“It must be underlined that the PSP-blocking is not automated, but applies to the operators found to infringe the marketing prohibitions of the Lotteries Act (1047/2001) which may be blacklisted. That has been the proposal all the way from the beginning,” Koivula said.

The proposals will enter into force after the Finnish President ratifies them, which Koivula said should be a formality.

“The new law will enter into force as scheduled and there will be no delays,” he said.

The aim of the changes is to reduce gambling related-harms, according to the Ministry of Interior.

But concerns still remain among some observers that the proposals will not have their intended effect because they protect the existing monopoly held by state-owned Veikkaus.

Finnish Gambling Consultants co-founder Jari Vähänen, a former Veikkaus Oy VP, said on social media “the law does not benefit anyone — not Veikkaus, not beneficiaries, not customers and not to reduce gambling-related harms”.

“[The Finnish Government] didn't even analyze the license-based model. Hopefully, the next government and parliament will be more analytical,” Vähänen said.

Parliamentary elections are set to take place in 2023, potentially delivering a new right-wing government focused on increasing tax revenue from the gambling sector as opposed to reducing problem gambling.

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