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Poll: Majority want to keep state-run gambling monopoly

Gambling is popular in Finland, and the only legal way to do it here is through the state-run monopoly. According to an Yle-commissioned poll, more than two-thirds of people said they want to keep the monopolised gambling system - which funnels profits to charities - to remain unchanged.

Henkilö pelaamassa hedelmäpeliä.
Image: Yle

A clear majority of people in the country say they want the state-run gambling monopoly system to remain as it is.

A fresh, Yle-commissioned poll finds that some 66 percent of people in Finland would not like to change the country's state-run gambling scheme. Those in favour of keeping the state-owned gambling scheme were mostly older women, according to the poll.

Only about 20 percent of the respondents said they would like to break up the monopoly, allowing commercial gambling firms in on the games. Most supporters of doing away with the monopoly were younger adult males.

Finland loves to bet

People in Finland are some of the most active gamblers in the world. Finland was the fifth biggest gambling nation worldwide, according to statistics from H2 Gambling Capital, which were featured in the UK news magazine The Economist, in 2011.

The topic of breaking up Finland's gambling monopolies has been discussed for years; a move which - if implemented - would open up the Finnish gaming market to international firms. Supporters of opening up the monopoly claim that the state could grant licences to gaming companies and still get gambling revenues without having to own and run casinos and lotteries.

But at least for the time being the monopoly will remain - and the monopoly is one of few topics that virtually all political parties appear to agree upon.

Monopoly: Three gambling companies become one

Three firms control legal domestic gambling in Finland: RAY, the Slot Machine Association which also runs casinos; Veikkaus, the national betting agency for lottery tickets and sports wagers; and Finntoto, for bets on horse races.

In order to be able to use gambling winnings towards charities, Finnish law states that all domestic gambling companies must be state owned.

At the beginning of this year those three companies (RAY, Veikkaus and Finntoto) officially merged as one firm, and retained their monopoly on legal gaming in the country.

Researcher: Trust in the Finnish state

Head researcher at Taloustutkimus, the polling company which carried out the survey, Juho Rahkonen says that the results reflect that Finns trust in the state.

"In contrast to many other countries, people in Finland don't believe that the state is evil and trust that it can carry out these kinds of services. At the same time it shows a rather broad criticism against market liberalism and [reflects] a fear that all of the gambling profits would disappear to tax havens overseas if private gaming companies would take over," Rahkonen says.

Working group to examine gambling addiction

An estimated 110,000 people in Finland are thought to have gambling problems. This relatively small group - which makes up just five percent of all gamblers in Finland - accounts for half of the country's gambling revenues - about one billion euros annually.

Every year, people in Finland bet some ten billion euros on lottery tickets, fruit machines and sports games, of which the state reaps some two billion euros which it then distributes to various charities and organisations.

Before 2017 it was the gambling companies themselves which were supposed to addressthe issue of gambling addiction. But, following changes to the Lotteries Act late last year, a government working group at the Ministry of Social Affairs is charged with tackling the topic.

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