Gambling in the Nordic countries
For as long as we can remember, we have been familiar with the term Nordic countries. It refers to Finland, Sweden, Norway and Denmark and the cooperation between them in general. Why then has such cooperation not arisen in relation to gambling? Is one reason the lack of a common currency, neighbourly envy or simply the fact that all four countries are very different from each other economically? Let’s take a brief look at the Nordic gambling markets.
Denmark was the first Nordic country to give up its gambling monopoly
In 2012, Denmark switched to a licensing system. In order to obtain a Danish gaming licence, a gambling site must, among other things, have Danish-language customer service and Danish currency as a payment method. In addition, the site must pay taxes to Denmark. Next was Sweden, which gave up its monopoly in 2019.
Today, gambling companies bring in a lot of tax revenue to Sweden. Iceland, on the other hand, has no state-owned gaming company. All gambling activities in Iceland are restricted so that only institutions and charities that are not subject to state control are allowed to organise gambling.
Finland and Veikkaus
Finland is the only country in the EU with a state monopoly on gambling. By contrast, almost every EU country has a system similar to that of Sweden. Casino operators pay a licence fee and income tax to the state and are allowed to market and produce games in that country. See more here.
The laws and regulations vary slightly from country to country, so the biggest operators therefore have country-specific casinos to ensure that each casino plays according to the regulations of the country. However, online casinos are available in almost every country, whether the country has a monopoly or a licensing system.
In Finland, players are free to play online casinos as they wish, and as there is no licensing system in Finland, this is referred to as ‘gambling on the side’, as there is no revenue for the state. This online gambling has been growing year on year and many wonder why Finland is not following the Swedish and Danish models.
The main reason is political. Over the last hundred years, Finland has expanded its network of slot machines to cover the whole of Finland, and even though they have now been reduced at the turn of the year, there are still over 15 000 slot machines in Finnish kiosks, shops and petrol stations, through which Finns gamble billions! All of this adds up to over a billion euros in prize money to be shared out – and there’s a reason why Finland is still not a monopoly.
Yleisradio’s MOT programme did a special programme on the true numbers of gambling and the money involved in the business. Where the state should strive to make it as safe as possible for gamblers to gamble, the situation in Finland is that clubs and organisations that have been run for decades with gamblers’ money are so used to getting money that without it they would die. Many of these beneficiaries of profit money don’t really even think about where the money they receive comes from.
The hope is that this system will be overturned and replaced by a healthier incentive system based on taxes and licence fee revenue, but one that gives money not just for the sake of giving money or politicking, but out of real need.
Sweden and licences
Sweden moved to a licensing regime for gambling at the beginning of 2019 and during the year these licensees generated SEK 24.8 billion in turnover, or €2.34 billion. The biggest source of revenue was of course online casinos and betting. Lottery and slot machines generated just under SEK 6 billion, which is very little compared to the amount of gambling in Finland.
Indeed, Finland is the only country where games are available to the general public and to adults, usually after the checkouts in shops.
At the end of 2019, Sweden had 96 licensees, of which 70 were active in online casinos and betting. Unfortunately, the events of 2020 and possible reforms by the Swedish authorities could now break this fragile, albeit functioning, system.
In Sweden, there is also the possibility of being banned from gambling by registering with spelpaus.se, where more than 8,000 players registered in 2019 who felt they could not otherwise control their gambling.
In just over a year, Sweden has already seen some of its most eagerly awaited casinos leave the country, saying it was too small for such a large licensed operator. The same would happen in Finland: in the beginning there would be heavy marketing from all new casinos, but soon it would subside as in other countries. Advertising is also severely restricted in most European countries, the main reason being an attempt to avoid gambling advertising reaching underage youth.
Norwegian gambling block
Finland’s gambling activities could perhaps be compared to Norway’s. There you can still find a kind of monopoly, which protects its position with a pay-block. The introduction of payblocks in 2010 was preceded by the move to an exclusive system in 2008.
It is also legal to gamble at foreign online casinos in Norway. However, local banks are not allowed to transfer money to companies that are not licensed in Norway. The Norwegian Gaming Authority, Lotteri- og stiftelsestilsynet, operates the payment blocks.
This has led to the de facto impossibility of direct online banking payments to online casinos. As a result, it is not possible to make Pay N Play money transfers in Norway, for example via Trustly. Instead, credit cards or various online wallets such as Neteller and Skrill are largely used.
However, this has had a relatively limited impact on outbound gambling. Statistics show that the proportion has remained fairly constant from one year to the next. However, online casinos are also actively targeting Norway.
Photo by Polina Kuzovkova on Unsplash