There is growing pressure on Finland's monopoly gambling firm Veikkaus to remove slot machines from shops and kiosks across the country, as a citizens' initiative advocating their removal continues to garner support.
However, removing the slot machines will have a major social impact, according to Velipekka Nummikoski, executive vice president of Veikkaus.
"Giving up distributed placement [of slot machines] is a political issue. The company's mandate alone is not enough to make such a decision," Nummikoski said in an interview on Yle's morning television programme Aamu-tv.
The citizens' initiative for the elimination of Veikkaus slot machines has so far collected more than 20,000 signatures. The initiator of the action, Jenna Mäkelä, told Yle that she has suffered from a serious gambling addiction which led to a conviction for fraud and an attempted suicide.
"Gambling addiction is a disease that also affects loved ones. Many find themselves in a situation where there is no hope," Mäkelä said.
A total of 18,500 Veikkaus slot machines are located in shops and kiosks across Finland. People with gambling addictions therefore encounter them on a daily basis. According to Mäkelä, slot machines should be instead moved to controlled arcades.
"If a person chooses to fight their gambling problem, the role of society is to support them and not push them to re-engage with the problem," Mäkelä said.
Half of the revenue from slot machines comes from approximately 5 percent of the players. Low-income pensioners, in particular, suffer from gambling problems.
"Finns play with money that they cannot afford to lose," Mäkelä told Aamu-tv.
"The nearest slot machine is on a phone"
According to Nummikoski, international online gambling has increased addiction.
"The nearest slot machine is on a mobile phone nowadays. When a single company is responsible for gambling, it doesn't have to chase the very last euro at any cost," Nummikoski said.
However, Nummikoski also added that he welcomes the discussion about Veikkaus' position and the placement of slot machines.
"I really appreciate those who have given a face to the gambling problem. Hopefully it will also lower the threshold for others to seek help,” Nummikoski said.