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Finnish govt committee: No grounds for protecting Veikkaus monopoly

| By Marese O'Hagan
Finland's Constitutional Committee has said there is no justification for protecting Veikkaus' monopoly through a payment blocking amendment to its Lotteries Act.

The bill, which was filed in September, contains proposed amendments to Finland’s Lotteries Act, including a stipulation to block payments from operators, other than Veikkaus, who advertise directly in the Finnish market.

As the monopoly holder state-owned Veikkaus is the sole company licensed to offer gambling in the country.

If passed, payments service providers will be required to block payments to and from operators from 1 January 2023. However, the committee took significant issue with this tenet of legislation.

It argued that this would constitute a “a far-reaching restriction of fundamental rights”, something it said could not be justified on the basis that it would prevent and limit gambling harms.

Payment blocking, it said, may violate Article 15 of the Constitution of Finland, which dictates property protection, and Article 18, which details the freedom to conduct a business.

Winnings and funds deposited into a gaming account automatically fall under property protections measures, while blocking legally obtained winnings infringes on the rights of business to trade and individuals to receive won assets, said the Committee.

The Committee instead asked the government to consider whether the aims of the bill could be achieved by “less intrusive means”.

The remaining amendments include mandatory identification for all forms of gambling, and new penalties for marketing. This states that gambling promotions must be moderate, and not glorify gambling, make it appear to be an everyday past-time or present it as a means to improve an individual’s financial situation.

The Committee queried the language around marketing. While it said that far-reaching restrictions on advertising could be imposed, citing restrictions on the marketing of alcohol, it questioned the tenet that would allow the authorities to impose financial penalties.

It took issue with the fact this was effectively equated with a criminal penalty, rather than an administrative fine, and warned that more clarify was required on the grounds for handing down such penalties, and as to how the amount would be calculated.

The new sanctions structure for marketing, if passed, is expected to come into force from 2022.