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Posted on: 14 May, 2021

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Gambling Regulations for Online Casinos in Finland

According to the United Nations, Finland has been ranked as the happiest country four years in a row, from 2016 to 2020. What's the secret to Finnish superiority in happiness? While there are likely many contributing factors, one of them could be that gambling is legal (although monopolized) within the country. 

Finland is a bit of an anomaly as a European Union member. The Finnish love gambling, but the government doesn't want to open up a free market. With that in mind, let's take a closer look at gambling regulations for online casinos in Finland. 

A Brief History of Online Gambling in Finland

Unlike other countries, Finland seems to have embraced gambling as a whole. Today, roughly 80 percent of the country gambles regularly, and the practice is seen as a net positive. However, this attitude wasn't always prevalent, particularly when it was part of Sweden and Russia. For many decades, gambling was treated as a vice, poisoning the minds and wallets of men and women alike. 

That all changed when Finland finally declared independence from Russia in 1917. Since Finland was originally part of Sweden and then annexed by Russia after the War of 1809, the 20th century was a new beginning for this fledgling nation. 

As Finland began to find its roots, the government determined that gambling would be an integral part of the new national identity. There were a few ways that the government achieved this goal. First, establishing gambling monopolies ensured that losses would go back to the state for public service projects and infrastructure. Second, early advertisements implied that only foreigners didn't gamble, so it was a Finn's natural right to place bets. 

Finally, since Finland was trying to free itself from communist rule, the government felt that gambling was an easy way to avoid the radicalization of the population by keeping them entertained. Overall, these tactics worked wonders and continue to this day. The organization that manages all gambling in the country, Veikkaus Oy, uses the phrase “A Finn always wins” when talking about gambling. So, citizens can feel good about losing money at the tables, slots, or racetrack because they're helping their fellow countrymen. 

While the monopoly seems to have a net positive impact on Finnish culture, the country has butted heads with the European Union because of it. The EU generally likes to have open borders and free-market competition among its member states, so Finland is playing unfairly by refusing to allow foreign online casinos. So far, the government has staved off any intervention by claiming that the monopoly is nonprofit. While that is technically true (to some extent), the argument is still a bit flimsy. 

Regardless, it appears that the Finnish monopoly on gaming, both online and in-person, isn't going anywhere soon. As long as Finns feel a national duty to gamble at state-run casinos and betting sites, there is little desire for outside influences. 

Here are some important dates in the history of online gambling in Finland. 

  • 1899 – All forms of gambling are banned within the country. 
  • 1917 – Finland gains independence from Russia. 
  • 1920 – Finland legalizes gambling and establishes government monopolies on the three primary forms of betting, including sports, casino games, and lotteries. 
  • 1938 – As slot machines start spreading in the country, the government establishes Ray, the slot gaming monopoly. 
  • 1966 – The first iteration of the Lotteries Act comes into effect, nationalizing the gambling industry and setting strict regulatory oversight. 
  • 1991 – Casino Helsinki, the only full casino in the country, opens its doors. 
  • 2012 – The Lotteries Act is amended to help prevent younger players from participating in games, both in-person and online. 

Is Online Gambling Legal in Finland?

Yes, it is legal to play at online casinos in Finland, provided that the state-run monopoly manages them. Since Veikkaus Oy is the only game in town, Finns have minimal options for legal and regulated websites. In addition to casino games, Finns can play online lotteries, bingo, and sports betting. 

One crucial element to point out is the addition of the Aland Islands. Aland is an autonomous region of Finland that consists of 6,700 islands, although only 60 are populated. Aland has its own gambling authority and rules, even though the area is subject to Finnish law. So, residents on the islands don't use Veikkaus for their online gambling needs. Instead, they go with the local authority PAF. 

Since there are so few online gambling options, many Finns choose to play at unlicensed offshore sites. Finnish law doesn't prohibit this activity, although citizens are strongly encouraged to keep their money within the country's borders as much as possible. 

That said, the government does try to ban IP addresses of offshore casinos and betting sites, so only a few are open to Finnish players. 

Gambling Regulations for Online Casinos Finland

The Lotteries Act is the primary regulation for casinos and gaming in Finland, both in-person and online. Here is a more in-depth rundown of the act and how it works. 

Although this law is called the Lotteries Act, it discusses all forms of gambling and how they can be regulated. The act defines the following forms of gambling

  • Money Lottery – A gambling game that can end in a draw. 
  • Betting – Any activity where a player can receive part of the winnings based on the stake and odds of guessing the outcome of a game or race. 
  • Pools – A betting situation where players share winnings based on their guess of an outcome of a sporting match or race. 
  • Slot Machine – Any device where players can gamble and win money. 
  • Casino Game – Any dice or games of chance, like roulette. 
  • Totalizator Betting – Pool betting on horse races. 
  • Combination Game – Any activity that uses one or more of the actions described above. 

The act also stipulates that these games can be played both in-person or virtually, so the same rules apply to online casinos. 

One of the Lotteries Act's primary functions was to establish the state-run monopoly to prevent problem gambling and criminal activity. Updates to the act have further expanded on this goal by prohibiting minors from playing, particularly on slot machines, which are abundant throughout the country. 

When it comes to online gambling, all players must create an account with a licensed website and the following information

  • Age (must be at least 18)
  • Finnish Bank Account Number
  • Finnish Social Security Number
  • Permanent Finnish Address

Those without these details cannot play at licensed online casinos. 

The secondary purpose of the Lotteries Act is to ensure that gambling proceeds go toward the public good. The state-run monopoly has to pay a 12-percent tax on its gross gambling revenue, which goes toward public education, horse breeding, sports, science, and social welfare. 

When it comes to advertising, the Lotteries Act only allows marketing from licensed providers, meaning Veikkaus Oy and its subsidiaries, Ray and Fintoto (more on those in the next section). Foreign operators are forbidden from advertising their sites to Finnish players. 

Gambling Authorities for Online Gaming in Finland

Before 2016, three separate entities controlled a specific sector of gambling in the country. Although they all merged into one organization, Veikkaus Oy, they still operate as unique divisions of the same agency. Here is a breakdown of what they do. 

Ray

As we mentioned above, Ray was established in 1938. This sector is in charge of all land-based gaming in the country. While slot machines are the division's bread and butter, it also licenses and monitors casino games. Finland is quite unique compared to other European countries when talking about in-person gambling. Rather than having multiple casinos, Finns prefer to play virtually everywhere. Slot machines exist in almost all public places, including grocery stores, bars, restaurants, and hotels. Some restaurants even have table games. 

Casino Helsinki is the only land-based casino in Finland, although there is another on the Aland islands. However, that casino falls under PAF jurisdiction. Other than Casino Helsinki, there are 78 gaming arcades, over 30,000 slot machines, and at least 250 restaurants with table games. 

Thanks to a change to the Lotteries Act in 2020, all players must verify their age before playing on slot machines. This adjustment aims to curb underage gaming since it's so easy to play on these devices. 

Fintoto Oy

This division oversees all parimutuel horse racing in the country. For those unfamiliar with horse betting, parimutuel gambling means that players split a shared pot instead of betting against the house. Many European countries only have parimutuel betting, although some offer live bets as well. Another term for this kind of gaming is totalizator. 

Veikkaus Oy

Although this is the official name of the merged gambling authority, Veikkaus Oy is also the division that handles lotteries, instant-win games, and sports betting. This department hosts these games both in-person and online

Play Against Friends (PAF)

Since the Aland islands are autonomous, they have their own regulatory authority established in 1966. Because residents are spread across 60 islands, PAF handles all gambling for the territory, including land-based, online, and cruise ship games. Even Finnish residents who visit Aland are subject to these regulations.

Although these four regulatory bodies handle all gambling in Finland, numerous offshore sites accept Finnish players. While individuals can bet at any site they want, it's always wise to visit licensed and regulated online casinos, even if they are technically illegal within the country. 

Since Finland has such strict rules, many offshore casinos don't cater to Finns as much as they do other nationalities. However, here are the regulatory bodies that oversee the ones that do cater to Finns. 

UK Gambling Commission

The United Kingdom is a “white market” country because online gambling is well-regulated and open to foreign operators. The UKGC is one of the most well-respected commissions in the industry and sets some of the highest standards for licensed members. However, the agency has gotten into trouble in the past for not revoking the license of a site that went bankrupt, leaving many players with unpaid balances. 

Alderney Gambling Control Commission

Alderney is technically an independent nation, although it is considered a British Dependency. This gaming commission is well-run and offers benefits to its member organizations. Like the UKGC, sites with an Alderney license are respected since the commission has strict rules and oversight. 

Curaçao Gaming Control Board

Depending on whom you ask, the CGCB is either a well-respected or shady organization. Some sites have suggested that Curaçao has little regulatory oversight, meaning that operators have little incentive to provide reputable services. However, many online casinos have a CGCB license, so it's hard to say whether they are safe or not. 

Gambling Addiction Resources in Finland

While Finland's monopoly approach to gambling is designed to create a safe and responsible industry, the fact is that some players can become addicted to the practice. Fortunately, since gaming is legal and regulated within the country, Finns have access to various gambling addiction resources, like the ones below: 

Peluuri – This is the premier website related to problem gambling within the country. Peluuri offers tons of information about gambling addiction and provides access to 24/7 phone and live chat services. Players can also get peer support from other gamblers if necessary. 

Self-Exclusion – Veikkaus Oy has a self-exclusion program for both in-person and online gambling. Since the program was founded, over 30,000 Finns have participated. Self-exclusion is perfect for online casinos because you can block specific IP addresses, removing the temptation to play. 

Gamblers Anonymous – This international organization holds meetings in Finland. You can find out about specific times and locations here

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