The Emergence Of Finland's Gambling Scene
Many people do not realize that the most popular form of sports betting in Finland is a game called Pesapallo. It is similar to baseball developed in the 1920’s. Additionally ice hockey and skiing are other highly wagered games. Overall, all gambling in Finland has been controlled by the government since before World War II. Even with continued pressure from the European Union (EU), little has changed to increase gambling for the Finnish.
Currently there are two casinos located in Finland so that gives rise to the notion that they are not completely opposed to such, but are not expanding the enterprise at a substantial rate. The Casino Mariehamn also known as Paf Casino/Arkipelag Hotel and Casino as well as Casino Helsinki.
Slot machines in Finland date back to the 1920s. However, abuse by private businesses led, in 1933, to the State intervening and limiting licensing to charities. Ray is a non profit company that uses gambling proceeds to fund domestic charities such as retirement as well as to fund mental health care for gambling addiction.
The other two organizations established by the Finnish Government to oversee gambling in that country are Veikkaus Oy, the Finnish National Lottery, and Fintoto Oy, which supervises horse racing betting. However, both physical and online gambling in Aland Province is under the separate control of Play Among Friends (PAF).
The Coming Of Online Gambling
In November, 2010, Finland, like Sweden, launched its own government regulated online poker site, run by Ray, and powered by Playtech. Finnish players were permitted to play tax free since it was a licensed site and was EU regulated. However, limited game selection and low player volume caused many players to look elsewhere.
Meanwhile, PAF was already running its own online gambling site, and that created problems as RAY and PAF found themselves in fierce competition. Since PAF offered better odds and prizes, many mainland Finns chose to play at PAF casinos instead of RAY casinos. Many others signed up with foreign online sites. According to a report in a Finnish newspaper, Finns spend 50 million euros annually on foreign online poker sites. While the Finnish Government discourages online gambling outside the country’s borders, there is no actual law forbidding them to do so.
The EU has been reviewing the Finland gambling monopoly with regard to its compatibility with EU law. The Finnish Government’s position is that by subjecting all gambling activities to strict state control and monitoring, players are protected and the likelihood of abuse and illegal and problem gambling is minimized. In November 2013, the EU ruled that, provided the individual states comply with the regulations, that Finland’s existing policies on gambling are acceptable.
Gambling in Finland Today
At the present time, in all of Finland, there are only two legal land-based casinos, only one of which, the Grand Casino Helsinki, can be considered a major casino. There appears to be little growth in that area for the 2017 season.
Grand Casino Helsinki was originally established in 1994 as Casino Ray, located in the Ramada President Hotel. In 2004, it moved to its present location and was renamed Grand Casino Helsinki, though it remains under RAY control. The casino has 300 slots, 32 table games, and 6 poker tables. In 2009, the casino had more than 70,000 customers, 80% of whom were from the Helsinki area. Various poker tournaments are held there, including the Finnish championship tournaments. However, slots constitute over 70% of the net revenue. 100% of the casino’s net revenue is used to fund social and health causes and to assist Finish veterans.
Casinos are far from the only places Finns can gamble. Finland currently has at least 76 gaming arcades, over 250 restaurants with casino table games, and over 30,000 slots machines. Additionally online gambling is available to Finnish players. In fact it is a well known fact that the government will not prosecute those who choose to play on sites outside of the Finnish borders.
In Finland, the legal gambling age is only 18. According to a 2011 Ministry of Social Affairs study, 78% of Finns, age 15-24, gamble. While the current spending on gambling per person is only 14 euros per week, the figure jumps to 52 euros for problem gamblers. Furthermore, the distribution of land based and online gambling expenditure in the Finnish population is extremely skewed, with 5% of those who gamble accounting for approximately half of the total gambling expenditure.
RAY’s competitor, PAF, like RAY, offers both land-based and online gaming and uses the profits to benefit various causes. PAF.com, in partnership with Microgaming, has debuted a new online poker game, expressly designed for beginners. The game, equipped with an instructional video, provides a convenient means for inexperienced players to play with others at their own level.
Problem Gambling in Finland
When it comes to gambling it doesn’t matter what country or how many laws are passed to deter people from gambling, there are those individuals that will become consumed with it. Gambling has been a part of the human make-up since for as long as there has been any recorded history. Where there is the opportunity for either physical or online gambling there is the potential for problem gambling. Fortunately, the vast majority of gamblers in Finland have not found themselves in the category of problem gambler.
For many decades the Finnish government has been actively involved in putting revenues from legalized gambling into social programs to address the issue. The results showed that 1% of the respondents had a gambling problem. The Finnish population is not much different from other countries as it seems to be predominately a male problem. However, males were affected more than females. A high frequency of intent gambling was one of the variables that had a significant correlation with a severe level of problem gambling.
Recent studies show that younger men were more apt to be affected than older men, while the reverse was true among women. Another important finding was that men who engaged in both land-based and online gambling, or exclusively in online gambling and exhibited psychological distress, were significantly more likely to have a gambling problem. Women who engaged in both land-based and online gambling and had a drinking problem were also significantly more likely to have a gambling problem.
Betting, whether online gambling or playing at land based casinos, seems to be a regular pastime for many Finnish citizens. Finland like the rest of the world is a part of the casino craze. 2017 will likely beat all prior revenue statistics as we see giants like PokerStars and Full Tilt merge to become an online poker giant.