Finland’s National Police Board is investigating a Malta-licensed operator’s “large-scale” marketing to consumers in mainland Finland.
The so-far unnamed operator has been sending text messages from abroad in Finnish to consumers including minors, the regulator said in a press release on April 20.
Additionally, marketing has appeared on several websites targeted at mainland Finland, such as Finnish-language affiliate websites. The names of several sites refer to social media influencers whose recognition is limited to Finland, according to the police board.
Police were alerted to the messages by citizens, following a campaign to raise awareness of illegal marketing and lower the threshold for reporting to the authorities.
The company responsible for the marketing has been asked for clarification.
The police board said that after consulting the company, it can ban the “illegal implementation and marketing of gambling and impose a fine as an effect of the ban”.
Johanna Syväterä, the chief inspector from the police board's lottery administration, said the text messages are “not related to existing customer relationships, but on the contrary, they aggressively aim to expand the customer base of gambling websites. The receiving of text messages has therefore not been based on one's own choice and the target group seems to have been randomly selected.”
Syväterä added that it is “particularly worrying” that these texts were received by minors.
Antti Koivula, a partner and legal advisor for Finland-based law firm Legal Gaming, said: “During this spring, the National Police Board has been more active in supervising gambling marketing than ever before in its history.”
“This is the result of the Lotteries Act reform of 2022, which provided them new tools to intervene and a notable increase in funding,” Koivula told VIXIO GamblingCompliance.
The news comes as the police board has repeatedly said in the ongoing debate exploring alternatives to the current monopoly model in Finland that it would be difficult to assess the effect of recent legislative reforms, which gave the regulator new tools to counter illegal gambling, until it had had time to put them to use.
For instance, payment blocks, which were introduced at the start of 2023, “will have a delayed effect, as they can only be imposed in conjunction with prohibition decisions”, chief inspector Mikko Cantell recently told VIXIO GamblingCompliance.
Finland's monopoly system is at a “crossroads”, according to a highly anticipated report by the Ministry of the Interior, which concluded that a licensing system or more measures to prevent unlicensed online gambling must be introduced.
The winners of Finland's recent elections are publicly behind a plan to dismantle the monopoly system for online gambling.