Veikkaus prepares to furlough retail staff

16 April 2020

Finnish gambling monopoly Veikkaus has launched a process that could see up to 675 of its staff placed on furlough during the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) crisis.

The operator, which shut down all land-based operations on 13 March, will begin negotiations with staff over the temporary layoffs from 20 April. This will affect workers at its Casino Helsinki property and the Feel Vegas and Pelaamo arcade chains.

However, Veikkaus stressed that there was no plans to make any staff redundant at this point.

The furloughs are initially expected to last for up to 90 days, beginning from May at the earliest.

“We are constantly monitoring the effects of the crisis, and no decisions have been made on possible layoffs,” the operator’s director of channels and sales Jari Heino said.

“They are the employer's last resort, but we must be prepared to take this step in the [current] situation.”

Having initially shut its land-based venues until 31 March, Veikkaus announced near the end of that month that the shut-down would continue indefinitely, with no end date set.

“People’s health is an issue that must always be prioritised over anything else,” chief executive Olli Sarekoski said at the time.

“We strive […], as much as we can, and to take measures to prevent the virus from spreading through different surfaces and through person-to-person contact.”

At the time it also stressed that there were no plans to lay off staff.

While the operator’s land-based outlets are closed and its sports betting offering significantly limited by the suspension of sports around the world, it still offers online casino, bingo and poker games.

The closure of Casino Helsinki has prompted the operator to shift its annual Midnight Sun Tournament, which is usually held in the venue, to an online event, running from 1 to 7 June.

Through its liquidity sharing agreement with Casinos Austria’s igaming brand Win2Day, the tournament will also be available to players in Austria.

“Moving a traditional tournament series to the web is exceptional, but so is everything else at the moment,” Casino Helsinki poker manager Jukka Räsänen said. “We are glad that such a major event can be introduced to our online poker site within such a packed schedule.”