Finnish PM Backs Budget To Cover Veikkaus Beneficiaries Shortfall

October 20, 2021
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The Finnish government wants to set aside €332m in next year's budget to ensure non-government organisations do not miss out on any funding because of declining Veikkaus profits.

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The Finnish government wants to set aside €332m in next year's budget to ensure non-government organisations (NGOs) do not miss out on any funding because of declining Veikkaus profits.

Finland’s government previously agreed to cover around 80 percent of the funding shortfall.

However, Prime Minister Sanna Marin said during a press conference on Friday that the impact of the pandemic had made the situation “very difficult” for many NGOs.

“Now that we are starting to open up society again, the field of beneficiaries in the cultural, sports, social and health sectors will play a significant role and therefore we want to support the organizations,” Marin said.

The Prime Minister will discuss her proposal in parliament during the “supplementary budget process”, during which the government decides where to allocate leftover funds from the budget.

An estimated additional €77m will be provided for the NGOs, made up from €47m of the excess budget and €30m from a lottery tax and “undistributed assets”, according to Marin.

Veikkaus financial profit was €680.2m in 2020, a 32.6 percent drop compared with 2019.

It estimates the COVID-19 pandemic alone reduced its gross gaming revenue (GGR) by more than €300m in 2020.

Last year, the Finnish government allocated €347m to make up a public funding shortfall, as the company dealt with new slot machine restrictions and closures.

Following the government’s financial intervention, many different stakeholders in Finland criticised the reliance of NGOs on Veikkaus funding.

Earlier this year, Finland’s science and culture minister Antti Kurvinen backed a move to transfer income from gambling monopoly Veikkaus to the general government budget by 2024.

Kurvinen said the concept would work in a way similar to that of Alko, the Finnish alcoholic beverage monopoly, whose profits go to the general state treasury rather than being earmarked for specific causes, such as alleviating alcohol addiction.

The Finnish Competition and Consumer Authority (FCCA) also called to have Veikkaus receipts transferred to the state budget rather than to a Veikkaus-linked fund for dispensing to charities, sports, health and arts organisations as a way of removing a conflict of interest.

Veikkaus has also had to adapt to its declining revenues caused by sustainability measures, recently ending negotiations that will see it save an estimated €15m by 2024 through streamlining operations and adjusting the number of employees.

About 830 people were involved in the negotiations that resulted in about 125–190 Veikkaus employees being released and around a further 100 employees having their contract terms changed significantly.

A large part of the savings will come from the closure of 15 Veikkaus gaming halls, the profitability of which had been reduced as a result of social responsibility measures.

“The reforms are designed so that change support is available to those leaving the company. In principle, most of the Veikkaus employees who were involved in the negotiations are offered new positions within the company,” Jari Heino, Veikkaus director of channels and sales, said.

For instance, Heino suggested that a new casino opening in Tampere in December still needed several positions filled.

Additionally, he is confident that the “responsible casino of the new era” will create more jobs in the future.

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