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Slot machine removals could threaten NGO funding

Gambling monopoly Veikkaus' predicted dip in turnover may limit the amount of assistance offered to Finland's charities.

Nainen pelaa rahapelejä.
Veikkaus says it will pull over 40 percent of its slot machines by 2025. Image: Marja Väänänen / Yle

Non-governmental organisations working in the social and health care field may see up to half of their Veikkaus funding cut starting in 2021, according to experts working with non-profits.

After public backlash over addictive games and questionable marketing practices, the state-owned gambling monopoly Veikkaus said it plans to cut 3,500 slot machines from public spaces starting next year as well as introduce a new practice of compulsory pre-game ID checks. By 2025 Veikkaus says that 8,000 of the current 18,500 machine total will be removed from Finland's shops, kiosks, restaurants and service stations.

In a 31 October press conference, the company's CEO said the rollback would shrink its annual turnover by 150-200 million euros.

"Some associations are entirely funded by these proceeds. The smaller the organisation, the more dependent it is on funding," says Vertti Kiukas, secretary general of the SOSTE umbrella organisation for Finnish NGOs working in social affairs and health.

Kiukas estimates that if Veikkaus profits fell by 100 million euros, this would result in about 35 million euros in cuts to NGOs working in the social and health care sector.

"The Ministry of Social Affairs and Health will ultimately decide whether assistance will be taken away from work focusing on mental health, children and the elderly," he says.

380 million euros in assistance, 10,000 jobs

This year social and health care NGOs in Finland received 362 million euros in Veikkaus assistance and aid proposals for 380 million euros are being prepared for next year.

Finland's Funding Centre for Social Welfare and Health Organisations (STEA) is a standalone authority founded in 2017. It works with the ministry to manage funds granted to social and health organisations from Veikkaus gaming income.

STEA director Kristiina Hannula says Veikkaus' projected turnover decrease will begin only in 2021. She would not speculate about how reduced funding would affect social and health care NGOs .

About 45,000 people work in social and health care-related NGOs in Finland, and Veikkaus funding is thought to bankroll 10,000 of these jobs. A drop in assistance could mean payroll cuts at several charities.

For example, 90 percent of the activities of a non-profit association for the visually impaired in Finland's eastern region of Kainuu is supported by Veikkaus funds.

"Among other things, the assistance covers the salaries of two permanent employees. Of course if the funding dramatically changes, it will certainly affect our operations," says Anja Koskelo, chair of the NGO's board.

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