Veikkaus Shuts Satakunta Halls Yet Again
Following the region re-entering the ‘acceleration’ phase of Covid-19 restrictions, Finnish operator Veikkaus has been forced to suspend its gambling operations in the country’s Satakunta region for the second time this month. The operator had just recently restarted its slot machines and reopened its gaming halls on January 16th.
Gaming Services Set to Resume as Soon as Restrictions Ease
Finnish gambling operator Veilkkaus’ never-ending saga of constant openings and closures has plagued the monopoly provider for several months now. However, there has never been quite as much back and forth as the operator is currently experiencing in Finland’s Satakunta region.
Following a decision by Finnish authorities to downgrade the region to basic Covid-19 measures, Veikkaus rebooted its slot machines and reopened its physical gaming halls in Satakunta on January 16th.
Yet once the affected region was moved back into the ‘acceleration’ phase of Covid-19 restrictions by the Finnish government — operator Veikkaus was forced to once again shut down all its activities currently present in the region.
The adoption of stricter Covid-19-related measures in the region was presumably due to rising case numbers of newly infected inhabitants.
All of the monopoly operator’s physical gaming locations were forced to close by the end of the day on January 29th. The full closure of its slot machine offerings followed shortly thereafter, on the morning of January 30th.
Concerning the resumed closures of all physical locations in the Satakunta region, Veikkaus promised to resume gaming services as soon as measures related to curbing the spread of the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic are relaxed.
This approach will apply to all Finnish regions affected by the closures of the gambling monopoly’s operations.
All Veikkaus Outlets Were Shut in November & December
Finland’s primary gambling operator Veikkaus is no stranger to closures during this particularly challenging time of grappling with the coronavirus (Covid-19) global pandemic.
At the tail end of November 2020, following the Finnish Ministry of Social Affairs and Health reporting a “worrying” rise in new coronavirus cases and hospital admissions particularly focused around the capital Helsinki, Veikkaus made the difficult decision to close down all gaming halls and switch off all slot machines in especially hard-hit regions of Finland.
As all public meetings became banned and students were shifted towards remote learning, Veikkaus felt the pressure to close down all operations in at least 12 regions, which it completed fully by November 28th, 2020.
At this stage, the operator reiterated its commitment towards listening to specialists while continuously evaluating the current situation relating to Covid-19 measure. Any future decisions would be made based on the science and expertise available.
The first wave of the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic in Finland caused virtually all sectors of public life to fully shut down, prompting the operator to shut down all land-based gaming on March 13th, 2020.
It took all the way until June 26th for casinos to fully reopen again in Finland, with Veikkaus’ land-based slots only going back online starting from July 15th.
Closures Come Amidst Criticisms of Finnish Gambling Scene
The widespread closure of Veikkaus’ retail gambling outlets across much of Finland has come at a particularly interesting and pressing time for the monopoly operator.
As Finland’s biggest and most influential operator, Veikkaus currently holds a monopoly over the vast majority of gambling offerings present in the country.
It has therefore come under increased pressure recently to reform and better regulate its practices in the hopes of promoting a more responsible gambling environment.
A report published by the Finnish Ministry of Social Affairs in 2020 highlighted several potential changes to the gambling market aimed at better protecting vulnerable players who might be at risk of falling victim to problem gambling and the associated pitfalls.
The report criticized Finland’s widespread availability of slot machines in particular, as well as the long opening hours of venues offering physical casino machines — with Veikkaus’ own venues being open till 3AM.
Pressure and New Legislation Lead to ID Verification System
The pressure and continued outcry against the relatively unregulated Finnish gambling market pushed Veikkaus to trial an identity verification system for all its slot machines in October 2020.
Another decisive factor in pressuring Veikkaus to launch the trial was the revised Finnish Lotteries Act, which made it a legal obligation for physical operators to check the identity and age of all players using their services.
As a vocal supporter of the legislation, Veikkaus was more than happy to launch its trial period and, following its success — the operator officially put its virtual identification system into effect as of January 2021.
With all Finnish players now being forced to access a digital card available on their mobile devices before being able to gamble, the significant move is expected not only to better protect players, but also save up to €300 million through the cutting of player losses.
Future Likely Remains Challenging for Veikkaus
Despite notable attempts to reform its gambling practices in favor of greater regulation and player protections, the future still remains up in the air for Veikkaus — and not only due to the continued presence of the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.
December 2020 saw the publication of a deeply critical report by the European Gaming and Betting Association (EGBA) concerning how unregulated Finland’s gambling market really is, with a particular focus on Veikkaus’ wide-reaching monopoly over virtually all forms of gambling in Finland.
The criticisms laid out included the disproportionately high number of slot machines in Finland (for every one ATM in the country, there are ten slot machines), as well as Veikkaus’ failure to provide any meaningful consumer protections to its players.
The report’s recommendation was to put an end to Veikkaus’ monopoly once and for all.
And while there are few signs Veikkaus is going away anytime soon, recent moves such as the implementation of ID-based slot machines, as well as strict adherence to the government’s Covid-19 mandates, indicates the monopoly is intent on “playing ball” with regulators and the state itself.
What effect the prolonged periods of closures will have on its finances, though, remains to be seen.