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Competition authority: Veikkaus must take gambling problems seriously

The authority wants Veikkaus' profits to be paid directly to state coffers, and slot machines removed from shops.

Kilpailu- ja kuluttajaviraston pääjohtaja Kirsi Leivo
Kirsi Leivo, Director General of the Finnish Competition and Consumer Authority, would like to see Veikkaus slot machines moved to more controlled environments. Image: Janne Järvinen / Yle
Yle News

The Finnish Competition and Consumer Authority has called on Finland's state-owned, non-profit monopoly Veikkaus to take the problems associated with gambling seriously, and has recommended the firm introduce a number of changes to its operating procedures.

Kirsi Leivo, Director-General of the authority, told Yle's MOT programme that Veikkaus' profits should be paid directly to the state, as this would be the simplest way to break Veikkaus' links with the organisations and projects currently funded by revenue from gambling.

"If the money went to the state budget, this would offer a clear solution for the beneficiaries," Leivo said in an interview with MOT.

At present Veikkaus transfers the proceeds of gambling activities to three government ministries; the ministry of social affairs and health, the ministry of education and culture, and the ministry of agriculture and forestry; which then distributes them to the chosen beneficiaries.

However if, as Leivo argues, Veikkaus' profits went directly to the state budget, the money paid out would not be explicitly from gambling and the beneficiaries would not be tied to Veikkaus.

In its publicity material Veikkaus says it rakes in more than a billion euros in annual profits from gambling, which are distributed to thousands of good causes in the sporting, cultural and social fields. Veikkaus has been heavily criticised recently for the nature of its marketing, which appeared to be encouraging problem gamblers to further indulge their habit.

Slot machines out of sight

Leivo also told MOT that she would like to see Veikkaus slot machines removed to more controlled environments, as the authority continues its investigation into how Veikkaus is working to reduce gambling harm in practice.

"It is quite exceptional that they [slot machines] are so freely displayed. I think, of course, that one could seriously consider moving them to casinos," Leivo said.

In September, Veikkaus announced that it planned to remove up to 3,000 slot machines from shops and kiosks as part of its response to growing calls for tighter restrictions on gambling in Finland.

Leivo does not believe this goes far enough however, and further pointed out that Veikkaus' role as a gambling monopoly requires the firm to take gambling problems especially seriously.

"State ownership and other regulations mean that Veikkaus must operate in such a way that gambling problems are taken seriously. Veikkaus' regulation is decentralized to a large number of players. It would make sense to have one supervisor with sufficient access to information and sufficient sanctions," Leivo proposed.

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