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Finnish police probe gambling operator over marketing

| By Robert Fletcher
Police in Finland have contacted a Malta-based gambling operator over allegations that it “aggressively” marketed its services to Finnish consumers.
Veikkaus Casino Tampere

According to an investigation by the National Police Board, the operator, the identity of which was not disclosed, carried out multi-channel, Finnish-language marketing in the country. 

Police noted a key part of the marketing effort was sending text messages to consumers in mainland Finland, including to a number of minors that were not of legal age to gamble. 

Marketing also appeared on several websites targeted at mainland Finland, such as Finnish-language affiliate websites, while a number of social media influencers, who are only well known to people in the country, appeared in the marketing.

Any advertising of gambling is illegal in Finland, with the exception of current monopoly Veikkaus. All other forms of gambling, other than those services offered by Veikkaus, are also illegal in the country.

The Police Board has contacted the operator over the matter. Dependent on its response, the police may seek to impose a fine in response to the illegal marketing.

Worrying activity 

“According to the Police Board’s information, the text messages were not related to existing customer relationships but, on the contrary, they aggressively aim to expand the customer base of gambling sites,” National Police Board lottery administration chief inspector Johanna Syväterä said.

“The receiving of text messages has therefore not been based on one’s own choice and the target group seems to have been randomly selected. 

“We find the marketing of gambling aimed at minors on purpose or through carelessness to be particularly worrying. Marketed online casinos offer especially fast-paced automatic games, which are estimated to cause particular harm and gambling addiction. 

“The reports made by citizens have been of paramount importance in the allocation of control work. A significant part of the administrative measures originates from the notifications we receive.”

No Limits

The case comes after the National Police Board earlier this year launched a national campaign to raise awareness of illegal marketing and encourage more consumers to report incidences to the police.

The campaign highlighted the financial, social and health problems related to gambling, with messages appearing on social media platforms such as Instagram and TikTok.

According to the National Police Board, one significant impact of the campaign was a one-third increase in the number of marketing-related notifications to the police, which it in turn said helped direct surveillance to where marketing is most active. 

“We believe that one of the main goals of the campaign, lowering the reporting threshold, has also led to the fact that we were able to intervene early on the text message marketing that has now come to light,” Syväterä said.

End of monopoly

Last week, a government study into international comparisons with the Finnish monopoly system argued that maintaining the current regime was “not a recommended option”.

Instead, the study outlined two potential options for lawmakers in Finland. The first option, based on the Norwegian model, would be to grant the regulatory authorities significantly more power to prevent consumers from accessing unlicensed gambling from abroad. Among other measures this could involve blocking orders, advertising bans and new policies to interrupt payment processing.

The second option – as implemented by a number of Finland’s neighbours – would be to establish a licensing model of gambling regulation. According to the study, the introduction of this system would “significantly improve” the channelisation of users to legal offerings.

State-owned Veikkaus praised the study, with CEO Olli Sarekoski emphasising the size of the offshore sector and his openness to the introduction of a licensed system to improve Finland’s channelisation rates.

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