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Finnish News

by Timo Korppi |  Published: Apr 01, 2008

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Fat Cats and Meager Mice in Finland

Finland is one of the old school states in Europe where the state gambling monopoly is doing somersaults trying to keep things as they are.

The authorities do not seem to care that according to European Union regulations they are wrong trying to prohibit the international gaming industry from offering their competitive and player friendly services in the land of a thousand lakes.

In most legal and juridical decisions Finland is eagerly copycating Sweden. The state owned gaming monopoly in Sweden opened up online poker two years ago. The result? About 40 percent of local players open up an alternative gaming account at Svenska Spel. Finland has stubbornly refused to join the bandwagon, although the Swedes have been able to prove that the number of problem players has dwindled and the revenue accumulated by the state treasury has risen to record high levels.

The Finnish legislators were caught pants down early in February when the minister of cultural and sports affairs, Mr. Stefan Wallin publicly hailed the Swedish decision to allow and participate in online poker. And not only that, Mr. Wallin proposed that Finland follow suit as soon as possible.

The Christian Democrats countered the bold move saying that poker, like all games, are the devil's work and should be destroyed globally. They demanded that banks credit card companies refuse all transactions to gaming sites.

Unfortunately this outrageous suggestion received widespread international coverage, impossible and unrealistic as it was. International observers in the Finnish capital, Helsinki, labeled the move a cheap political trick designed to get populist votes in the autumn election.

The EU has been disappointed with all explanations the Finnish government has given to defend its monopolistic gaming policy, especially while the gaming monopoly has been allowed and encouraged to act like any normal business enterprise. It's running TV, radio and print ads for the monopoly games 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, to strengthen the monopoly's market share, before the inevitable. Observers close to the local parliament "eduskunta" admit that one-third of parliament members already accept the EU demands and are willing to vote for abolishing the gaming monopoly. Still, as good a start as it is, in Finland the end of monopoly is still far away.

And this is exactly what minister Stefan Wallin had in mind. To allow the state betting monopoly "Veikkaus" or gambling monopoly "RAY" to run online poker and stop the outflow of funds to foreign operators, is as good as giving the monopoly an extension to run their business as usual.

To stop Finns from playing online poker, although a dream for some veteran politicians, is a virtual impossibility and explains Mr.Wallin's pragmatic move.

A former chairman of the parliament and a veteran of the Finnish cabinet, Mr. Matti Ahde is one of the few sworn opponents of online poker. However, his own son, Mr. Jussi Ahde is a pro-poker player, which was unknown by to his politician father until a local tabloid informed him. Not all fathers are like sons.

Timo Korppi publishes Pokeri Lehti (Card Player Finland).