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THL: Gambling machines should be banned from Finland's supermarkets

Finland's health institute THL says that the ubiquitous gambling machines found in most of the country's supermarkets should be removed. As an example, the agency pointed to Norway which saw problem gambling statistics tumble after the country removed gaming machines from shops a decade ago.

Nuori laskee rahojaan peliautomaatin äärellä.
File photo. Image: Yle

A working group at Finland's National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) says that the country should get rid of the gambling machines which are found in virtually all of its supermarkets in order to reduce the harms that problem gambling cause.

According to THL the country of Norway, dealing with its own gambling problems, outlawed gaming machines in supermarkets in 2007, and saw gambling problem figures plummet.

An agency working group on the issue listed other measures could take to help minimise gambling maladies.

The group suggested one way to prevent gamblers from excessive betting would be to compel gamers themselves to set maximum limits of money they are able to use on the colourful, noisy machines during a certain period of time. The group also suggested that access to gambling machines should be limited in places where alcohol is served.

All legal domestically-based gambling in Finland is run by the firm Veikkaus, a state-owned, non-profit gaming monopoly. Finland's Ministry of Education is in charge of allocating Veikkaus' profits, with proceeds going to various charities, amateur sport groups, the arts and other entities.

According to the Finnish news agency STT, Veikkaus is opposed to limits on where gaming machines can be placed.

Common problem

THL says the demographic groups which suffer the most from gambling include young adults, people with earlier gambling problems and those in poor socio-economic situations.

Finland's gambling figures have risen even though its population numbers have gone down, according to the agency. During the period of 2011-2015 the proportion of people identified as problem gamblers rose from 11 to 15 percent.

An estimated 120,000 residents in Finland have a gambling problem, according to THL. In 2015 nearly 20 percent of Finnish residents had a relative whose gambling was out of control.

A separate THL working group has proposed that Finland set up a new centre that would help fight problem gaming.

The working groups' reports were handed over to the Minister of Family Affairs and Social Services Annika Saarikko on Wednesday.

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