History of Gambling in Finland
The Republic of Finland, formerly part of the kingdom of Sweden and later the Russian Empire, has had a government-controlled gambling monopoly in place since before World War II. Despite recent pressure from the European Union and even the dawn of the internet and online gambling, Finland’s gambling structure has barely changed since then- and seemingly has no intention of doing so any time soon.
The first slot machines were introduced to Finland from Germany in the 1920s. Private businesses started exploiting the opportunity they presented, provoking a state intervention granting only charities the licences to operate these machines in 1933. However, bickering between different operations continued, and in 1938 RAY, short for Raha-automaattiyhdisty, Finland’s Slot Machine Association, was set up. Its decree gave it the authority to not only oversee slot gambling, but also to manufacture the machines themselves and provide funding for any health or addiction issues caused as a result of the hobby.
Ray is one of three organisations that form the Finnish government’s monopoly on gaming. The second is Veikkaus Oy, the Finnish National Lottery, whose profits on lotto and other betting activities are spread across different projects contributing to Finnish art and culture, sports or scientific endeavours. The third, Fintoto Oy, is horse racing-specific parimutuel betting, which like Veikkaus Oy invests the money it raises back into Suomen Hippos, a government organisation that looks after horses.
There is a separate system in place for Finland’s Aland Province, a network of roughly 6,500 islands located in the Baltic Sea that falls under Finland’s rule. Here, gambling activities are under the control of PAF (Play among Friends), which was founded in the 1966 to bring all the different Aland organisations under one roof.
However, with the dawn of the internet and online gambling, RAY and PAF found themselves competing with one another. PAF had started providing online casinos and sports betting from 1999, but the Finland 2002 Act on Gaming made RAY the sole official provider of online gambling for the mainland. However, because of better odds and prizes, many mainland Finns shunned RAY and Veikkaus for PAF, causing officials at RAY to push for legal action. However, the government stepped in again to intervene, deciding to allow both organisations to operate concurrently.
The Finnish government deters its citizens from gambling outside the borders of the country, but there is no legal framework in place for them to prevent or act against such activity. Yet despite the profits of gambling going towards good causes, the EU has tried to pressure Finland to dismantle its monopoly, calling its policies ‘protectionist.’