Finland – Finland misses opportunity for gambling reform with payment blockingBy Phil - 21 December 2021
The Finnish government’s proposal to introduce payment blockings for online gambling has been approved by the country’s parliament but, with its introduction, policymakers have missed an opportunity for meaningful and overdue gambling reform in the country.
On December 14, Finland’s parliament approved an amended version of a government proposal to introduce blocking measures for payment service providers (PSP) with the aim of restricting Finns from accessing non-Finnish gambling websites. The government justifies the PSP blockings on consumer protection grounds, but critics argue it will restrict consumer freedoms and choice.
Today, Finland is the only EU member state which still has an exclusive online gambling monopoly model, but its monopoly has come under increasing public scrutiny in recent years and increasing pressure from the demand of the country’s gamblers for more online consumer choice. The government’s proposed PSP blockings, part of a group of amendments to the country’s Lottery Act, seeks to address this by blocking Finns’ payments to and from non-Finnish gambling websites.
This week, a majority in the country’s parliament agreed on an amendment to block only those payment transactions from Finnish gamblers to non-Finnish gambling websites and not vice versa. This was after parliamentarians had raised several concerns about the proposals, including concern that blocking players winnings would be unconstitutional. Following the parliament’s approval, the amended Lottery Act will now come into force from 1January 2022 and the new payment blockings will be introduced at the start of 2023.
Experience from other countries shows that PSP and other blockings do not significantly affect consumer demand and, with its introduction, EGBA believes that policymakers have missed an opportunity for meaningful and overdue gambling reform in Finland. At the same time, EGBA welcomes the growing discussion both in the country’s parliament and in wider society about the future of Finland’s gambling policy. EGBA members are established, licensed, and regulated in most EU member states and would welcome the opportunity to apply for a license, be regulated, and pay taxes in Finland – but are still prevented from doing so by the country’s current gambling laws.
EGBA’s Maarten Haijer said: “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. 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. 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.”