Wednesday. 29.03.2023
Loss limits lowered

Government further tightens limits for online gambling during epidemic

Loss limits for Veikkaus Oy’s online gambling lowered until 30 September.
Veikkaus slot machines, closed during the epidemic to avoid infections. Photo:

Government has tightened the limits for online gambling during coronavirus epidemic. Legal amendments to the Lotteries Act entered into force on 1 May to lower the loss limits of Veikkaus fast-paced gambling games.

Veikkaus is the government-owned betting agency, which holds the monopoly of gambling in the country. The company owns for example the slot machines placed in supermarkets and also offers online gambling and casinos.

Since 1 May, the maximum loss limit has been lowered to 500 euros per month (before 2,000) and 500 euros per day (before 1,000 euros). According to the Ministry of the Interior, "the aim of those amendments is to prevent and reduce more effectively economic, social and health harm caused by gambling during the coronavirus epidemic.".

The amendments will remain in force until 30 September 2020.

-"During the coronavirus epidemic, most people spend more time at home than usual, which may increase the risk of online gambling getting out of hand. At the same time, many people are in an economically difficult situation. The purpose of the Decree is to curb the increase in the harmful effects of online gambling in emergency conditions,” says Minister of the Interior Maria Ohisalo.

In order to prevent coronavirus infections, Veikkaus Oy has closed down, for the time, all slot machines across the country, game rooms and the casino located in Helsinki. Because the coronavirus epidemic has led to the current restrictions and increased staying at home, the government thinks gamblers may move to fast-paced online gambling involving particular risk of harms.

Fast-paced games refer to Veikkaus Oy's eBingo, Tähdenlento, virtual betting and electronic money lotteries (online lotteries), and online casino games and slot machine games.

Set own loss limits

Apart from the maximum loss limits, in fast-paced online gambling all gamblers must set their own daily and monthly loss limits. Gamblers may change the loss limits they have set themselves. However, the limits set by gamblers cannot be higher than the maximum loss limits laid down by the Decree.

From the perspective of preventing and reducing gambling harms, lower loss limits will still be necessary even after the current restrictions caused by the coronavirus epidemic are lifted. This is justified, for example, by the fact that consumers' financial difficulties are likely to continue also after the epidemic.

Gambling companies outside Finland

Only Veikkaus Oy is legally entitled to offer gambling in mainland Finland. The lowering of the maximum loss limit may result in at least some of the players moving to gambling outside mainland Finland. It should be noted that in this case gambling would happen outside the supervision of the National Police Board under the Lotteries Act.

Government says "it is predictable that the situation will attract international actors to increase their marketing efforts and offer gambling opportunities in Finland in violation of Finnish law."

-"The fact that the Ministry of the Interior decides to protect gamblers by lowering the loss limit in emergency conditions must not mean that foreign actors who violate the law would benefit from the situation," says Saaramia Varvio, Chief of Gambling Administration under the National Police Board.

Foreign gambling operators use marketing methods that are prohibited in the Finnish gambling system by the Lotteries Act. According to the National Police Board, deposit bonuses and free rounds, for example, that are used as welcome offers are not allowed in Finland because of their "aggressive nature."

-"I would in particular call for the responsibility of Finnish public figures who market gambling. Gambling can cause significant economic, health and social concerns to many people, which can also influence families and friends. The marketing activities of public figures make gambling more everyday, lower the threshold to participate in gambling and create a distorted picture of an easy earning opportunity," Varvio continues.

Measures against foreign TV 

The role of the National Police Board is to monitor Veikkaus Oy's gambling activities and marketing that are based on its monopoly and to intervene in illegal activities.

According to the Ministry of the Interior, the National Police Board will continue to monitor marketing in social media and to take further measures against foreign television channels targeting mainland Finland. "The goal is to put an end to illegal advertising on these channels. The measures are based on supervision activities carried out under the Lotteries Act," the Ministry says.

The Ministry of the Interior is currently involved in a project to determine if it is necessary to review the Lotteries Act, in particular with a view to further prevent and reduce gambling harms.

The aim is also to explore legislative means to support Veikkaus Oy's operating conditions. The Ministry will examine, among other things, the extension of compulsory identification, the regulations on the marketing of gambling and the marketing that violates the Lotteries Act. The introduction of barriers to payment traffic to restrict gambling outside the monopoly will also be examined.

Government further tightens limits for online gambling during epidemic