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Finnish gambling monopoly shelves radio ads following public outcry

The ads featured avid gamblers receiving a therapist’s blessing to indulge their habit.

Veikkauksen ulkomainos.
Veikkausta on viime aikoina arvosteltu muun muassa siitä, että se on sijoittanut rahapeliautomaatteja suhteellisesti enemmän sellaisille aluille, joilla asuu vähävaraisia ja työttömiä. Image: Petrti Vironen / Yle

Finland’s monopoly gambling firm Veikkaus said on Tuesday that it was temporarily pulling certain radio ads from circulation following public pushback over the message they sent.

The decision affects all advertising material purchased by the company, except for ads promoting its flagship local lottery Lotto, the regional Eurojackpot game and the Nordic-Baltic lottery Vikinglotto, as well as brand and corporate responsibility marketing.

Veikkaus chief executive Olli Sarekoski said in a statement Tuesday that advertising material would be removed from circulation this week until the end of September. The questionable radio campaign was designed to run during this year's "royal races", an annual harness racing championship, which ends on Sunday.

Permission to gamble

The ads in question were aired on commercial radio channels and feature characters hankering after thrills and winnings. They ask a therapist if it is okay to want such things. The therapist then says these desires are acceptable and urges clients to "satisfy" their cravings by visiting the race track or by going to the Veikkaus website.

In his statement CEO Sarekoski admitted that the company had made a mistake.

"There is no reason to deny the facts. We have made mistakes. Some of our ads have not complied with the company’s agreed marketing principles. We take responsibility for them and we are very sorry for the distress we have caused and intend to learn from our mistakes," he said in the release.

He added that the firm had already begun an investigation and intended to thoroughly review its marketing processes, audit current policies and operations and make necessary changes as soon as possible.

Repeated interventions by police

Veikkaus holds an unassailable monopoly on gambling in mainland Finland. Daily Helsingin Sanomat (HS) reported that current legislation requires the company to market games only if they are not detrimental to finances, society or health. It should also avoid depicting heavy gambling as positive.

The Gambling Administration run by the police also says that the purpose of gambling advertising should not be to increase turnover, but to channel demand. In practice this means that players in Finland should be encouraged to patronise Veikkaus’ games rather than to visit foreign gaming sites.

According to HS, marketing was one of the reasons that Veikkaus was merged with the slot machine firm RAY and the horserace betting organisation Fintoto at the beginning of 2017. However the National Police Board has repeatedly admonished Veikkaus over advertising. Most recently in July, Veikkaus was asked to provide clarification on an ad in which playing its Keno lottery was compared to going to the coffee machine.

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