Veikkaus admits failures, as gambling monopoly outlines new direction

The company's CEO says the fact that money from gambling goes to charity, is not enough to justify the problems that addiction to the machines can cause.

File picture of slot machines in a casino / Credit: iStock

Finland’s state gambling monopoly Veikkaus is promising to become more responsible, after widespread public criticism of its operations.

As a first step, Veikkaus CEO Olli Sarekoski says the company will remove roughly 3500 slot machines in Finland by next year from public places like convenience stores, service stations and supermarkets, but adds this is just the beginning.

Outlining broad changes to its operation, Veikkaus has decided to remove as many as 8000 gaming machines by 2025.

The aim is to create a safer and more responsible gaming environment.

This new strategy comes after an outcry that started with controversial advertisements and spread to a political discussion of gaming machines located prominently in public places.

“The public and social debate has been rightfully concerned about whether it is acceptable that those who are in the weakest position have to suffer to benefit the common good” Sarekoski told reporters on Thursday.

“The fact that money [from gambling] goes to good causes is not enough to justify the problems any more” he says.

Every year Veikkaus hands over a billion euros in profit to government ministries, and pays more than €200 million in taxes.

File picture of slot machine / Credit: iStock

Compulsory IDs for gaming machines

Veikkaus also announced Thursday it would be bringing forward a move to introduce compulsory ID checks on slot machines.

A new government Lotteries Act mandates that there must be identification checks for using the gaming machines by January 2022.

The move would make it possible for players to set a temporary or permanent ban on their slow machine use.

It would also prevent underage gaming, if players are required to prove their age and identities.

According to Veikkaus, the new ID systems will apply to all Veikkaus games – excluding scratch cards and casinos – by January 2021, a full year ahead of the legal deadline.

“Players who play excessively may get a warning message from Veikkaus in future, and warning texts will be added to the games to indicate how addictive they are” says Pekka Ilmivalta from Veikkaus.

Ilmivalta also said on Thursday that the company will consider the socioeconomic impact of gambling before it puts new gaming machines into specific locations.