Finland’s Veikkaus sets online focus, curling more land-based slots

Finland’s state-owned Veikkaus gambling monopoly is accelerating plans to drastically reduce the number of slot machines after the original plan was determined to be “not enough.”.

On Thursday, Veikkaus delivered its latest financial report, 43% of which generated sales of 2.23b through digital channels, down 4.1% from the same period last year for the nine months to September 30. Revenue slumped 2.1% to €1.27b, while revenue increased 1.3% to £762.2m, thanks to stricter cost controls.

Bakekaus CEO Ollie Sarekowski acknowledged that 2019 “has been a business challenge so far.” This year, Veikkaus called time to run a struggling restaurant game table and started to sour, firing about 400 employees.

Sarekowski pointed out that the company’s operations and the country’s proprietary gambling model are the subject of a “heated public debate” this year. Much of that discussion followed a truly misleading radio ad aired this summer by a company urging individuals to feel the urge to gamble by scratching the itch while enjoying Veikkaus products.

Finns have already questioned the wisdom of maintaining Veikkaus’ gambling monopoly before the ad aired, but only then has the demand for a more open licensing system accelerated.

Veikkaus has previously announced plans to reduce the number of slots in shops, restaurants, gas stations and other venues from 18,500 to 15,000. On Thursday, Veikkaus said it would deport an additional 4,500 machines by 2025.

Veikkaus also said it is accelerating plans to impose mandatory customer identification on slots by January 2021, one year ahead of its original schedule. The plan would allow individuals to ban the ability to play slots permanently, and Veikkaus estimates that the annual impact on the company’s slot sales will be between €100m and €150m. By 2023, all Veikkaus products (excluding lottery scratch cards) will be subject to similar identity requirements.

However, Veikkaus said Thursday that while it is taking steps to reduce its land-based presence, the company plans to “focus more and more on digital channels” to compete with internationally licensed sites that serve Finnish customers.

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