New Finnish Powers Already Deterring Foreign Marketing, Says Regulator

January 12, 2023
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Several gambling operators have already stopped marketing to consumers in Finland following the bolstering of enforcement powers from the start of 2023, according to the country’s regulator.

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Several gambling operators have already stopped marketing to consumers in Finland following the bolstering of enforcement powers from the start of 2023, according to the country’s regulator.

The National Police Board, which enforces the country’s gambling regulations, has only recently been able to use the full extent of new powers introduced in the Lottery Act, despite other parts of the law coming into effect on January 1, 2022.

Among the delayed powers included an ability for the board to order payment service providers to block transactions with certain companies.

Mikko Cantell, the chief inspector of the police board, said payment providers received guidance before the end of last year on how to comply with the blocks and the first companies have since been listed on the public payment blocking blacklist.

However, “it is early days still, and the full effects of these new powers are yet to be seen”, Cantell told VIXIO GamblingCompliance.

Additionally, despite it not being linked to the introduction of payment blocks, the chief inspector highlighted that “international TV broadcasts where gambling marketing to Finland has effectively stopped. Relevant decisions were given in 2021 and the issue is pending decisions from the administrative court.”

Other new powers in the law included the possibility for the National Police Board to issue penalty payments and exclusions.

“No such decisions have been given at this stage. However, several have been processed concerning natural persons and it is possible that some of them will lead to such decisions,” Cantell said.

Separately, on January 10, the police launched a campaign to “eradicate influencer” marketing on social media.

The campaign, called "No Limits", aims to raise awareness of the illegal marketing of gambling among young adults. The campaign consists of videos shared on social media, in which an imaginary social influencer becomes aware of the true nature of image advertising.

A campaign was needed because despite Veikkaus having the exclusive right to market gambling products, other companies are promoting their games “strongly” to consumers in Finland on social media platforms such as TikTok, Instagram and Twitch, according to an announcement by the National Police Board on January 10

Juhani Ala-Kurikka, chief inspector of the police board’s gambling division, warned that “popular influencers are perhaps perceived as more credible sources than traditional advertisements, and the persuasive way of promoting gambling through one's own actions or personality obscures the perception that it is gambling marketing”.

The police board's efforts to bolster Veikkaus’ monopoly are set against the backdrop of political sentiment shifting towards dismantling the monopoly.

Public opinion has been turning against the exclusive rights model, with various stakeholders citing low levels of channelisation, problem gambling rates and consumer protection concerns.

Responding to these concerns, the Ministry of the Interior set up a three-month research project on January 5 to look at alternatives to the current system.

The project will look at legislative, legal and marketing issues around any transition to licence-based regulation. It will also evaluate the success of the current monopoly system in terms of dealing with problem gambling, one of the key aims of the Lotteries Act.

The Finnish Association for Substance Abuse Prevention (EHYT) announced on January 10 that several people have already been selected by the government to help guide its research project.

Economist Harri Sailas; Riitta Matilainen, head of the gambling division of EHYT; Mikko Alkio, a partner at Roschier law firm; and Tuija Brax, director of Oikeusvaltiokeskus, have all been invited to work on the project.

“Prevention and reduction of gambling harm must be at the heart of the entire investigation,” Matilainen said.

“Based on research and treatment experience, we know that it is casino and betting games played online that currently cause the most gambling disadvantages. No matter what our gambling system is, it is precisely these disadvantages that must be addressed,” she said.

Prior to the launch of the project, a Finnish government minister said there is large cross-party support for the introduction of an online gambling licensing regime.

Further reflecting the shifting social attitude towards the monopoly was an editorial piece published on January 9 in Helsingin Sanomat, one of the largest newspapers in Finland and the Nordics, claiming “the monopoly is already broken”.

“There is an oligopoly of three major players in the food trade in Finland, a partial monopoly in alcohol, and a licensing system that limits competition in medicine. Even these concentrations will crumble sooner or later. In a free market economy, the choice belongs to consumers,” the article concludes.

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