By this time next week grocery shoppers in Finland will no longer be as tempted to play slot machines in the stores if they’d prefer to simply go about their lives. On September 1, 2022, the machines’ game menus will be restricted from view as a default setting and the games will only be available for play between the hours of 9:00 to 21:00. Games will not be open for play outside of those hours.
During the hours that games are available, customers will need to authenticate themselves in order to light up the menus on the slot machines placed in stores. No changes have been announced for slots found in service stations, restaurants, or kiosks.
With the consolidation of the gambling industry in Finland into a single government-owned entity, it has been easier for authorities to implement responsible gambling measures and promote healthful entertainment while still allowing citizens the right to gamble. In early 2017, the country’s three previous betting and gambling operators – Fintoto, Finland’s Slot Machine Association (RAY), and Veikkaus were merged and became known as Veikkaus Oy.
The people and the government of Finland enjoy a system of exclusive rights going to the citizens with the government upholding and protecting the most basic of human rights including freedom of speech, religion, association, and assembly as upheld in law and in practice. The government’s duty is to provide safe and sane access to games that are operated responsibly and to mitigate any possible risks to the gambling public. On occasion, the protections have appeared as if they may go too far, such as when payment blocking for offshore casinos was considered. The idea was jettisoned when it was determined to be an unconstitutional practice.
Increased Consumer Protections
Consumer protections are an ever-evolving endeavor and this latest development is a continuation of several protective policies that have been implemented. Since July 2021, players have been required to authenticate their identities and ability to play (not self-excluded) using a Veikkaus Card, their phone, or a payment card that is linked to their customer loyalty account.
At the beginning of September last year, the compulsory loss limits that had been instituted for online players were extended to all Veikkaus slot machines in stores, kiosks, restaurants, and service stations, as well as Veikkaus Gaming arcades.
Customers set their own loss limits which can range between 1 and 500 euros a day and 1 and 2,000 euros per month. All Slot Machines and Instant Games, Lucky Games, and Skill Games in Finland are operated by Veikkaus as the country’s sole licensed online casino where about three-quarters of a million Finns play each week.
Restrictions in almost any environment tend to be progressive or “creeping” but for now, Veikkaus says the restricted hours, as well as the hidden game menus without authentication during non-restricted hours, will only affect slot machines in grocery stores.
Ms. Susanna Saikkonen, VP of Sustainability for Veikkaus said in a press release that the provider wants people to go about their lives and do simple things such as shopping without the slots being open. She also reminded Finns that anyone who wants to exercise the option can request a total self-ban from playing the slots. All it takes is to contact customer service or to visit the website’s Responsible Gambling page.
We found a chat facility that could be all that’s needed to start the process. Once banned, players would not be able to authenticate themselves at any slot machine so they wouldn’t be able to play.
Finland is About Average for Gambling Problems (2.5%)
Several studies have found that the type of gambling a person does can contribute to whether or not it might become a problem. Worldwide problem gambling ranges from 0.5% to 7.6%, with the average global rate across all countries leveling out at 2.3%. Finland has a slightly higher number of at-risk players at 2.5% according to a Taloustutkimus gambling survey conducted earlier this year.
In the Taloustutkimus survey which was commissioned by Veikkaus, slightly more than one in five (21%) Finns who felt they had a gambling problem felt that physical slot machines caused them difficulties.
Veikkaus has found that reducing the total number of slot machines available for play along with the self-authentication protocol has eased the pervasiveness of physical slot machines contributing to gambling problems.
While the survey found that online casino games result in a greater number of self-exclusions from gambling for Finns, Ms. Saikkonen says it is still important to take measures such as the new rules for grocery store slots to help overall.
According to the final passage in the press information on the grocery slots initiative, “Veikkaus is on its way to becoming a gambling company where all gambling takes place authenticated, both in the digital and the physical channel.”
Source: Veikkaus to limit slot machine play time, EU Gaming News, August 19, 2022