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Veikkaus to remove slot machines, cut marketing

State-owned gambling agency Veikkaus says it will trim executive bonuses if problem gambling doesn't decrease in Finland.

Veikkauksen peliautomaatti
Slot machines, scratchcards, the weekly lottery, and other forms of gambling are familiar fixtures in every grocery store and corner convenience store across the country. Image: Retu Liikanen / Yle

State betting firm Veikkaus said it plans to remove some 3,000 slot machines in Finland following calls by politicians last month for tighter restrictions on gambling in Finland. In August, Veikkaus faced a public outcry over its ad featuring avid gamblers receiving a therapist's blessing to indulge in their habit.

Following on the heels of a scandal involving executive remuneration at national mail carrier Posti, executive bonuses at Veikkaus will now turn on how well the firm mitigates problem gambling, the company said. Veikkaus also said that it will cut back on marketing significantly. In the future, digital games will only be advertised on digital channels.

The gambling monopoly also plans to decrease the number of slot machines in shops and kiosks by 3,000 units.

By 2022, users will need to log on with identification to play any of the remaining slot machines in kiosks and shops. Veikkaus currently owns and operates around 21,500 slot machines around the country.

Heavy criticism

The gambling industry in Finland is directly controlled by the state through a government monopoly and for decades, successive governments have channelled the gambling proceeds of the state-owned operators back into Finnish society. These days, the state-owned national betting agency Veikkaus hands over about one billion euros in profit to government ministries and more than 200 million euros in taxes – a fact used to justify the gambling monopoly.

But critics argue that the firm has become increasingly focused on profit-making, while preventing the harmful effects of gambling has fallen to the sidelines. Politicians have indicated that they would approve of shifting slot machines to more controlled spaces.

Board shake-up

State Ownership Steering Minister Sirpa Paatero this week announced changes to the Veikkaus board of directors. According to board chair Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo, the board still has confidence in CEO Olli Sarekoski.

The board has voted in new members Anne Larilahti – who was previously VP of sustainable strategy at Telia and will be Finnair's Corporate Responsibility Director next month – as well as M-Brain CEO Christian Cedercreutz and Juha Pantzar, CEO of the Guarantee Foundation.

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