EGBA critical of ‘missed opportunity’ for reform in Finland

The decision by Finnish authorities to implement payment blocks for online gambling has been highlighted by the European Betting and Gaming Association (EGBA) as a ‘missed opportunity for overdue reform’.

It comes following a government proposal to halt payment service providers (PSPs) from engaging with gambling transactions by amending the Lottery Act was passed by the Finnish parliament this month. The rationale behind the decision was that it would enhance consumer protection by preventing customers from accessing operators based outside of the country.

Criticising the development, EGBA has argued that ‘evidence from other countries’ demonstrate that PSP blocking has little impact on consumer demand for betting and gaming products, stating that the decision represents a “missed an opportunity for meaningful and overdue gambling reform in Finland”.

“The introduction of PSP blockings is an implicit admission that many of Finland’s gamblers prefer to bet on other websites rather than that of the state-run monopoly,” said Maarten Haijer, EGBA Secretary General.

“There are many reasons why they do so: the availability of better betting odds, and better diversity and expertise in the products offered, are to name a few.”

EGBA further observed that Finnish parliamentarians had raised ‘several concerns’ about the proposals, voicing worries that payment blocking measures – including the blocking of players’ winnings – would be unconstitutional.

However, following parliamentary approval, the amended Lottery Act will now come into force on 1 January 2022, with payment blockings introduced at the start of 2023.

“In the online world, consumers vote with their feet and that is why we will continue to encourage the government to rethink, rather than reinforce, the country’s online gambling monopoly model and advocate for the benefits of establishing a well-regulated, multi-licensing model for online gambling in Finland.”

EGBA has previously been highly critical of Finland’s gambling regime, with the country being the only European nation which maintains a state-sponsored gambling monopoly in Veikkaus

This monopoly, EGBA argues, restricts consumer choice and has caused many Finns to look for gaming services elsewhere, resulting in bettors turning towards overseas operators – a trend which the government now seeks to reverse with its amendments to the Lottery Act. 

The organisation’s criticism has been long standing, with Haaijer arguing last year that Finland needed to ‘fix’ its gambling infrastructure and oversight, arguing that the maintenance of the Veikkaus monopoly offers little to either consumers or the government.

He remarked: “One of the biggest problems with Finland’s gambling policy is that a monopoly system is impossible to maintain in the online world because of the ease which consumers can go from one website to another in today’s global e-marketplace. 

“This means that more choice or alternatives to Veikkaus can easily be found on the internet with international betting websites.”