Gambling is allowed in Finland, but at the same time it is under the full control of the state. The authorized body for regulating the gambling business in the country is the Ministry of Internal Affairs. The entire gambling industry (both offline and online) is monopolized by the state and divided between three firms: Fintoto, Veikkaus Oy and RAY (Raha-automaattiyhdistys).
Each of the listed organizations specializes only in a certain branch of the gambling business. For example, Fintoto is engaged in horse racing and tote. RAY has the exclusive right to operate slot machines, table games and casinos in Finland. Veikkaus Oy is the only operator of the national lottery and sports betting. According to the decision of the Ministerial Committee on Economic Policy, these three gambling operators will soon be merged under a single brand Veikkaus.
So far, the only Finnish land-based casino, Grand Casino, is located in the capital of the country, Helsinki. It offers over 300 slot machines, 20 tables and its own poker club. Grand Casino is owned by RAY, which also owns 7,000 slot machine establishments and 200 table game establishments throughout Finland. Since 2010, RAY has also been providing its services on the Internet – more than 250 thousand clients. Also in 2011, the company received permission to build a second land-based casino in Vaalimaa, aimed at residents of Russia. However, the project is currently on hold.
A distinctive feature of gambling in Finland is that all the funds raised are used exclusively for charitable purposes: helping those in need and seriously ill, charitable events, etc. Part of the income goes to the development of sports, medicine and health care, as well as to support the arts, social programs, science and work with young people.
In addition, Finland is actively fighting gambling addiction. According to statistics, 78% of Finnish citizens participate in at least one gambling game once a year, 37% play slot machines, and 15% play them weekly. In 2011, 110 Finns were recognized as gambling addicts. RAY donates up to 3 million EUR annually to fight this problem, and sponsors about 1,000 non-profit organizations.
Legislation regulating the gambling industry in Finland
Finland’s gambling business is fully owned by the state. The current Finnish legislation allows only three monopolies to organize and conduct gambling: Fintoto, Veikkaus and RAY. In the Åland Islands (autonomous province in Finland), all gambling activities are controlled by PAF.
According to Finnish law, gambling is a form of lottery where players have the opportunity to win real money. A lottery is understood as any activity during which participants can win. In this case, the prize payout is based on odds, and players are charged a participation fee.
The permitted gambling in Finland includes:
- cash lotteries;
- slot machines;
- casino games;
- casino operations;
- tote bets;
- non-cash lotteries;
- guessing games;
- non-cash prize machines.
A license is required to organize and conduct all types of gambling entertainment, including online and mobile games. In addition, there is a ban on advertising and promotion of gambling, as well as on bets without an appropriate license.
Gambling regulators and laws governing the gambling industry in Finland
All permitted types of gambling in Finland are regulated by the Lotteries Act (23.11.2001 / 1047). This law establishes provisions on the conduct of a lottery, supervision of the lottery process, the provision of lottery accounts, the purpose of using profits from lotteries and control over the use of proceeds. The Lottery Act also regulates slot machine operations, governs non-cash lotteries, guessing games, bingo and maintains the availability of non-cash prize machines.
The gambling business is regulated by the Ministry of the Interior. According to the current legislation, persons under the age of 18 are prohibited from entering the casino.
Finland has banned unlicensed marketing activities aimed at advertising gambling establishments and the services they provide. The Lottery Law covers the promotion and advertising of the lottery. There are even criminal sanctions for violation of this paragraph in the law. The National Police Council is responsible for monitoring advertising.
The Gambling Administration department of the National Police Board oversees lottery operations and compiles statistics on lottery activities. This department is an independent oversight body. This body has the right to make opinions and recommendations on the launch and supervision of lotteries. He can also prohibit the holding of lotteries or their sale and reinforce their prohibitions with conditional fines.
The distribution of funds received from various operators is controlled by the relevant authority:
- the distribution of Veikkaus income is regulated by the Ministry of Education and Culture;
- from RAY – by the Department of Social Affairs and Health (based on proposals made by RAY). The company itself is responsible for the distribution of profits and practical aspects related to supervision and assessment of profits;
- by Fintoto – The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry is responsible for implementation.
In accordance with Finnish law, gambling profits are used to finance:
- science, arts, sports and youth (Veikkaus);
- social and charitable organizations, assistance to the less fortunate and rehabilitation of war veterans (RAY);
- promotion of horse breeding and equestrian sports (Fintoto).
As for the Aland Islands, according to the Law on the Autonomy of the Aland Islands, the local parliament has the right to pass any laws on gambling. The provisions on gambling in the Åland Islands are included in the Law on Åland Lotteries. Only PAF is allowed to gamble in the Åland Islands.
Licensing in the gambling industry
All gambling agreements in Finland require a gambling license. In total, there are three licenses in the country:
- to launch cash lotteries, pools and bets;
- for maintaining slot machines, managing casino games and conducting casino activities;
- for totalizator bets.
Only one license is granted for each of these purposes. The official rationale for this restriction, which effectively creates a regulated monopoly, is as follows:
- protection of those who are engaged in gambling activities;
- prevention of abuse of gambling;
- prevention of criminal activity;
- reducing social problems resulting from gambling.
Licenses are issued for a period not exceeding five years. They are issued and canceled by the Finnish government. Currently, three operators have been licensed: Veikkaus Oy (state-owned company), RAY (state-owned company) and Fintoto Oy (private property). In accordance with current legislation, no other operator can offer gambling services in Finland.
Applications for a license must be submitted in writing. Usually they are accompanied by some documents:
- an annual report or other evidence confirming the applicant’s participation in activities that contribute to his chosen cause. Other forms of evidence are accepted only if there is no annual report;
- confirmation of the decision concerning the relevant activity (extract from the minutes of the meeting);
- a copy of the latest confirmed financial statements, including the auditor’s report;
- a copy of the rules of the association or foundation;
- an extract from the register of associations, the register of funds or the trade register, or an extract from the register maintained by a public organization.
Additionally, requirements may be put forward, depending on the licensed type of activity. For example, applicants for a bingo license must submit the rules of the bingo game and proof of the reliability of the systems to be used in the game. More limited requirements apply to guessing games.
Lottery income tax is paid to the Finnish state. It is paid by the operators or organizers of the event. The amount of tax is calculated on the basis of income from gambling services, namely, from the difference between the participants’ cash rates and the total amount paid. If several bodies or persons share the work of organizing or holding such events, then they are all responsible for paying the tax.
Lottery tax rate:
- 12% of the operator’s gross profit from lotteries organized by exclusive rights;
- 1.5% of the total sales of lottery tickets and tickets for guessing games organized by non-profit organizations;
- 1.5% of the gross profit for the maintenance of slot machines that give consumer goods as prizes;
- 5% of the total amount of winnings and prizes given out in the bingo game (excluding prizes that entitle the player to a second free game);
- 30% of the total winnings and prizes given out in any other lottery or competition.
Participants of gambling entertainment who have received a prize are also taxed. Winning income may be exempt from income tax if the lottery is organized in the European Economic Area and operates in accordance with the rules of the national legislation of that country. Also, tax is not paid if the outcome of an event is determined on a random basis. However, any winnings are taxable if they are in the nature of payment for goods or services, or if they are in the nature of wages.
Licensed varieties of gambling
Among the licensed varieties of gambling in Finland:
- slot machines. There are more than 300 of them in the Grand Casino Helsinki alone, in addition, there are more than 7 thousand establishments with slot machines throughout the country;
- table games – Blackjack, Oasis Poker, Red-Dog, Punto-Banco, American Roulette, etc. Lightning Poker, Touch Bet Roulette and Derby Horse are especially popular among Finns. There are over 20 gambling tables and a poker club in the Grand Casino Helsinki, in addition to this, there are another 200 gambling establishments in the country offering table games;
- guessing games;
- different rates.
Online gambling in Finland
Online gambling has been legal in the country since 1996, when the National Lottery Finland Oy Veikkaus received a license to provide its services on the Internet. According to the current legislation, the online gambling entertainment market is also monopolized by the state and divided between three operators: Fintoto, Veikkaus Oy and RAY. The Aland company PAF also has a license to provide its services online.
No one other than the listed operators has the right to operate in the Finnish gambling market. However, Finnish gamblers can easily use foreign casino sites, the interface of which is presented in Finnish and English. Bets on these sites are accepted in euros and US dollars. It should be borne in mind that only euros are accepted in official Finnish casinos.
Popular slot machines in Finland
Among Finnish players, slot machines from such manufacturers as NetEnt and Yggdrasil Gaming are in special demand. The Finns also do not ignore the products of Play’N Go. Here is a list of the most popular slots in the country:
- Mega Fortune from NetEnt;
- Hugo by Play’n GO;
- Legend of the White Snake Lady by Yggdrasil Gaming;
- Alchymedes from Yggdrasil Gaming;
- Book of Dead by Play’n GO.
Lotteries and card games are appreciated in Finland, especially blackjack. Still, the leader in popularity is poker, including its video versions.
Finnish gambling software developers
Finland is famous for its gambling software developers. Among these is Finnplay. This company is popular not only in Finland. She works with many renowned casino operators around the world. Finnplay specializes in developing slot machines and solutions for the iGaming industry. The company is also engaged in supporting startups, replacing or improving outdated gambling systems in large reputable companies.
Prospects for the development of gambling business in Finland
Finland is one of the most gambling countries in Europe. Despite the fact that the country still has a monopoly on the provision of offline and online casino services, the gambling industry in the country is actively developing. As before, only three Finnish companies, which are under strict state control, can work in this area. Thanks to this, the state budget is annually replenished by 1.7 billion EUR.
The prospects for Finland’s gambling business are to preserve and strengthen the current state monopoly. It is unlikely that the Finnish gambling market will open up to commercial operators in the near future. Rather, the government will implement more drastic measures and legal powers to prevent citizens from gambling on foreign online casinos. Since this aspect of the country’s gambling business is currently imperfect, Finns are free to play on foreign sites that gladly accept them. The current legislation does not provide for acts to suppress such a situation.