Finnish gambling monopoly Veikkaus has said problem gambling rates among slots players are at an all-time low as a result of the impact of restrictive consumer protection measures introduced over the past few years.
Only 0.8 percent of adults feel their gambling is problematic, according to the gambling monopoly’s latest briefing, based on a survey undertaken by Finnish market research firm Taloustutkimus Oy.
Last year, the same survey showed the problem gambling rate was 1.6 percent, while the highest recorded rate was 2.8 percent in 2005.
Lauri Halkola, Veikkaus’ chief design officer and vice president, data and analytics, said ever since a compulsory loss limit was introduced in May 2020 gambling has “fallen significantly” among all demographics.
“The most drastic drops have occurred in the groups playing the most and in the oldest age groups,” Halkola said.
The figures follow the Ministry of the Interior’s announcement that the pandemic-related spending restrictions of €500 per day and €2,000 per month would become permanent.
All slot machine players are also required to use a Veikkaus issued identification card.
Additionally, since September, players can set their own loss limits on slot machines.
“These limits were hit 60 percent more often in September and October than in previous months this year. Over 80 percent of the hits concerned self-imposed loss limits of under €200,” Halkola said.
Around 100,000 customers had to stop gambling in September-October because they had reached their self-imposed loss limits, Veikkaus said.
Susanna Saikkonen, Veikkaus’ vice president of sustainability, said the data shows gambling, especially slot machines, are “at a turning point” as a result of these sustainability measures.
The number of slot players per year has fallen from 300,000 to 250,000.
The number of slots in the market has also fallen from 18,500 in 2019 to 10,000 today.
Saikkonen said the company’s total gross gaming revenue (GGR) share derived from slot games have plummeted from 40 percent (€683m) to an estimated 20 percent (€200-220m) in 2022.
The update sparked fears among gambling addiction experts that Veikkaus will attempt to leverage the figures to influence ongoing parliamentary discussions about long-anticipated Lottery Act amendments.
Campaigners said they are also concerned that Taloustutkimus Oy’s complete survey was not published alongside Veikkaus’ brief or on the researcher’s own website.
Anne Salonen, the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare’s research manager, took to social media to voice her concern that Veikkaus’ update should include an assessment of the impact COVID-19.
“The announcement and its timing give rise to the idea that Veikkaus will use it to influence the ongoing parliamentary discussion of the reform of the Lottery Act,” she said.
Salonen said there is still a need to improve the prevention and reduction of gambling harms.
Leena Pihanurmi, founder of the Finnish Association for Healthier Gambling, called Veikkaus’ update only “as reliable as a gambling addict’s account of how little they have played”.
“Veikkaus only reports the numbers in its selection, excluding relevant figures, and does not provide the necessary game data for researchers to analyse,” Pihanurmi said.
She believes the figures show the impact measures driven by civic activism have had, as she repeated her association's call to have slot machines removed from shops, kiosks, service stations and other everyday areas.