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Online gaming – and its Problems – Set to Rise

The online gaming industry in Finland is changing rapidly. According to a new report, online gambling games are becoming widespread, with the border between gambling and digital entertainment becoming increasingly blurred.

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Image: YLE

Nowadays in cyberspace, almost any kind of online game can be converted into a high stakes gamble, where players bet money against game outcomes.

According to researcher Jani Kinnunen, different kinds of games attract different kinds of players. Games of skill attract players who would not necessarily get involved in traditional gambling games, such as bingo, lotto, or casino games.

The changes in the online gaming landscape and its associated problems were the subject of much pondering Friday at a seminar by the Ministry of Health and Social Services and the National Institute for Health and Welfare in Tampere.

The subject has become topical in light of changes that will widen the range of online gaming options available in Finland. In August the Finnish Slot Machine Association (Ray) will introduce online games such as poker and roulette. Veikkaus, the Finnish Lottery will also migrate online with its own offering of games of chance.

Protection for Players

According to current research online gambling including games of skill are associated with a new kind of social interaction, which is not present in traditional gambling.

“On skill-based gaming pages such as topkani.fi, players are immersed in an online community, which must be joined before they can play for money. Players then compete against their own community members,” explained researcher Jani Kinnunen.

Kinnunen pointed out that communities can protect players from the problems associated with gambling. “Players don’t necessarily want to wager money in games with acquaintances and when players know each other, it’s easy to intervene when someone is going too far,” he added.

Inevitable Increase in Problem Players

Officials at the Ministry of Health and Social Services believe that the possible increase in online gaming will contribute to associated problems. Lottery legislation currently being prepared obliges the Ministry to develop measures to prevent gambling-related problems as well as care programs.

The new online games will challenge efforts to develop preventive programs, as skill gamers don’t necessarily see themselves as gamblers at all, even if they sometimes wager bets.

“For the moment these gamers play for small stakes, and the winnings are relatively small, but then can grow as the number of players increases,” Kinnunen explained.

“The larger the player community grows, the greater the number of anonymous players, who may be seen as a potential source of winnings,” he added.

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