The Impact of Gambling on Finland’s Economy

The gambling industry worldwide is a big earner for domestic economies and helps raise billions of euros in tax revenue. The global market was valued at EUR 56.95 billion in 2020. Finland’s share of that figure equates to EUR 1.69 billion with each Finnish adult spending on average EUR 430 per annum—placing them in the top ten list of nations that love to gamble.

Gambling in Finland is state supervised and monopolised by the government owned non-profit operator Vekkaus Oy. Until recently two other entities existed as gaming agencies:

RAY (Raha-automaattiyhdistys)

RAY was the Slot Machine Association of Finland, which held a monopoly on land-based and online casino gaming including live casino. Their authority consisted of slot machines and all table and card games both online and at Finland’s only official mainland casino, Casino Helsinki. 

RAY merged with Veikkaus Oy on January 1 2017. There are a number of Feel Vegas adult gaming clubs, featuring slots and table games, across Finland which are also operated by Veikkaus Oy.

Fintoto Oy

Fintoto’s responsibilities included:

  • Providing all pari mutuel horse betting across the country.
  • The development of all national racetracks.
  • Television productions for horse games and events.

The company was founded in 2001 and ceased functioning during the same merger with RAY and Veikkaus Oy.

Veikkaus Oy

Vekkaus is now the sole body responsible for all gambling based activities in Finland. The company also manages all instant win games, sports betting and the Finnish National Lottery. The lottery was initially legalised, back in the 1920s, to discourage Finns from partaking in neighbouring Sweden’s lottery.

The Lottery Administration (Arpajaishallinto), a division of the Ministry of the Interior and the Gambling Department of the National Police Board, is responsible for supervising lottery, fundraising and gambling activities since the Veikkaus merger in 2017.

All profit raised by Veikkaus is used to fund domestic charity such as pensioner care and gambling addiction treatment as is directed by the law.

The distribution allocations are as follows: 

  • 53% of profits goes to the Ministry of Education and Culture. The funds are used to improve sports and physical education, science, arts and youth work
  • 43% goes to the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health which will fund social welfare and health projects.
  • The remaining 4% goes to the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry for improving horse racing facilities.

Finland has a long and close relationship with gambling. The charitable aspect to Veikkaus profits means some view the pastime as a sort of civic duty—any money lost will go toward good causes.

An expansion of services in the gaming sector could increase revenue available for these services. Due to its member status, there has been significant pressure from the EU to end Finland’s gambling monopoly and to open up state controlled markets to competitors.

The Finnish gambling industry has grown year on year at an approximate rate of 10% since 2016.

Gambling is regulated by the Finnish Lotteries Act 2001 but is currently under imminent review. The proposed reforms, due to come into force incrementally from 2022, consist of identification requirements for all forms of gambling as well as the ability for Veikkaus to supply products and services to other businesses for the first time.

Encouragingly, there is a heavy focus among Finland’s lawmakers to promote responsible gambling and healthy gaming habits.

Tightening constraints on the consumer are likely to have a negative effect on potential income for Finland’s economy in the areas previously mentioned. Presently, there is no specific law that stops citizens from accessing and using foreign online casino services—the proposed amendments could make it harder for citizens to reach these providers.

When Finnish residents choose to use the service of foreign casinos, the state is unable to collect tax on the money spent. This is because with current laws, foreign casinos lie outside of national legislation—opening up to licensing these providers would in turn generate more revenue for the economy.

With a low population density and access to casinos limited to its citizens, online casinos are a great alternative—especially for those that live in remote parts of the country. Live casino in particular, brings an authentic casino experience to anyone, as long as they have a stable internet connection.

The majority of Finns are in favour of abolishing the state led monopoly system, a survey conducted by Bilend in 2019 found. Participants in the survey were in support of a license based system that is popular in other Nordic and EU countries.

There is significant division within the population though with 31% in favour of a new system and 27% not in favour. The remaining responders either had no opinion or a neutral stance on the subject.

The gaming industry employs 5,000 Finns nationwide and with expansion could provide income for a portion of the 28.4% that are currently unemployed. 

The numbers show how popular gaming, especially in the digital domain, is among the Finnish people and in time, the governing bodies are sure to capitalise on this fact fully. A licensing system would result in increased tax revenues and also more protection for citizens that use foreign services.