The state-owned gambling monopoly Veikkaus promised on Thursday to make broad changes to its operations following public criticism of its practices. The remedial measures it is now committing to include slashing marketing of its games of chance, trimming its network of slot machines and introducing a system of compulsory identification for most of its products.
Veikkaus confirmed the changes following a series of stumbles, including a disastrous marketing campaign that caused the public to question the firm's strategy.
"Public debate has rightfully asked whether it's right that people in weak positions suffer for the common good. The fact that the money goes to good causes is not enough to justify the problems caused anymore," said Veikkaus President and CEO Olli Sarekoski.
Sarekoski said that an increasingly competitive field has meant that the company has focused on keeping its turnover steady, to the detriment of its work to reduce problem gambling. During the press conference, he admitted that the company "has not done enough to reduce gambling problems". He said Veikkaus will now turn its attention to building a more responsible gaming environment for its customers.
Start by removing a fifth of slot machines
Outcry that started with the controversial ads soon spread to discussion of Veikkaus' 18,500 slot machines, located in kiosks, shops, restaurants, and service stations throughout Finland. Research had determined that more slot machines were placed in shops and other locations in low-income areas than in other areas, when analysed on a per capita basis, for example.
Veikkaus' corporate social responsibility Pekka Ilmivalta told the gathered press that 3,500 slot machines would be removed from public places in line with the new strategy, with a reduction of up to 8,000 machines planned by the year 2025.
The gambling monopoly has also decided to bring forward the adoption of compulsory identification on slot machines by one year, starting a gradual rollout that will be completed by January 2021. The new identification requirement will apply to all Veikkaus gaming, excluding scratch cards and casinos.
Compulsory identification will enable players to set a temporary or permanent ban on their slot machine gaming. It will also prevent underage gaming, the company said.
Ilmivalta said that players who play excessively may get a warning message from Veikkaus in future, and warning texts will be added to the games to indicate how addictive they are.
Marketing cut by a third
A September press release from Veikkaus' Board of Directors said that marketing would be reduced by a third in future. Thursday's press conference did not mention specific percentages, saying only that there would be significant reductions in the gambling monopoly's marketing efforts.
Veikkaus representatives said that all advertising content would be subject to an ethics board review moving forward, to ensure that it is ethical and responsible.
Company management predicts that the new strategy will shrink its annual turnover by up to 200 million euros.