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Finland flexes payment blocking powers by blacklisting Betsson

| By Kyle Goldsmith
Betsson’s BML Group subsidiary is the first gambling operator blacklisted by Finland’s National Police Board (NPB), blocking any payments to its brands from players in the country.
Betsson Finland

The NPB revealed a list of organisations placed on its blacklist today (29 February). This was comprised entirely of Betsson, BML Group and 13 of the operator’s brands.

It is the first time an operator has faced blacklisting in the country. It follows Betsson losing a court case to the NPB earlier this month. Banks, payment service providers and virtual currency providers are now obliged to block all money transfers from Finland to BML.

The implications for Betsson

The case dates back to May last year when BML Group was ruled to have targeted Finnish players via marketing and advertising campaigns in violation of the Finnish Lotteries Act.

The court fined BML Group €2.4m (£2.1m/$2.6m) and banned it from marketing its gambling services.

This was after the NPB ruled the company had breached the Finnish Lotteries Act by illegally targeting players in mainland Finland for an “extensive period”.

Only Veikkaus, Finland’s gambling monopoly, can operate in the country and market its services.

Finland gets tough on unlicensed gambling

Payment blocks for gambling were introduced in Finland at the start of 2023. The aim was to cut into a sizeable black market, something that accounts for as much as half of all gambling in the country.

Betsson faced a similar situation in Norway, another monopoly market, in 2021.

Its entry to the regulated Netherlands igaming market was also blocked in 2021.

That year it was one of a number of high-profile brands that withdrew from the market after a last-minute policy change to the Remote Gambling Act which stated that operators who do not target the Dutch market, but offer services to Dutch players, were ineligible for licences. While it initially pursued a licence after an enforced cooling-off period, this application was later withdrawn.

Finland to end gambling monopoly

The decision to blacklist Betsson comes as the Finnish government works to end the current monopoly of Veikkaus.

The government will end the monopoly “no later than 2026” in favour of an open licensing model. These reforms would prevent gambling harms, both financial and social, by increasing channelisation to legal offerings the government said.

Following the announcement of the monopoly coming to an end, Veikkaus entered into an agreement with OpenBet. The deal will see Veikkaus’ fixed-odds betting system updated so that it aligns with OpenBet’s offerings. The updates will be visible at sales points and on Veikkaus.fi by the end of 2024.

That followed Veikkaus announcing it would cut around a quarter of its workforce, dividing operations into three business units. Around 185 to 215 of Veikkaus’ employees will lose their jobs, while another 110 to 150 workers will have material changes made to their employment.

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