Finland’s president has signed into law the country’s gambling reforms, ensuring new enforcement powers and marketing rules are set to come into effect from January 1.
Finnish president Sauli Niinistö signed the Lottery Act amendments on December 22, earlier than expected, meaning there will be no delay to their entry into force at the start of next year.
The reforms maintain the country’s monopoly system, with state-owned Veikkaus still the sole operator of all forms of gambling in the country.
However it significantly tightens controls on the operator, including a requirement for mandatory account registration for all games, both land-based and online, by 2024.
Veikkaus voluntarily began rolling out registration requirements in early 2021 and the ability to set loss limits on its slot machines in September.
Most significantly for the offshore operators that continue to accept business from Finnish gamblers, the law empowers the National Police Board to begin payment blocking from the start of 2023.
“The object of the blocking is gambling companies which, in violation of the Lottery Act, direct their marketing to mainland Finland and whose marketing has been prohibited by the Police Board,” the ministry said.
Earlier drafts of the amendments had sought to ban players from withdrawing winnings, as well as making deposits, but those restrictions were removed over fears of a constitutional conflict.
“The Police Board [will maintain] a block list of gambling companies to which banks and other payment service providers must block payment transactions,” the ministry said.
Marketing rules are also being strengthened, with a requirement that advertising be “moderate”, language that echoes a controversial legal definition in neighbouring Sweden’s highly competitive market.
Adverts for slot games are to be banned, but it will become legal to advertise certain betting and totalizator games, the Ministry of the Interior said in a press release on Wednesday.
Ad rules will also apply to individuals for the first time, in a move targeted at celebrity endorsements on social media and elsewhere.
Powers for the police to go after companies advertising unlicensed gambling in Finland will also be strengthened.
“As a new tool, the National Board of Police may submit an administrative penalty fee to the Market Court for marketing in violation of the Lottery Act. In the future, the Police Board may also prohibit individuals from marketing gambling in violation of the Lottery Act,” said the ministry.
Under the existing regime, police were already able to fine Eurosport €800,000 for marketing unlicensed gambling in September.
As part of the law’s passage, parliament also passed demands on the government to calculate daily and monthly mandatory loss limits and invest in more support services for those suffering from gambling harm, the ministry said.
Jari Vahanen of the Finnish Gambling Gambling Consultants pointed to uncertainty around marketing rules as an area of focus for 2022.
“The law does not clearly state what is considered prohibited marketing,” he said. “The regulator is given great power in these matters.”