Veikkaus ramps up responsible gaming strategy roll-out

31 October 2019

Veikkaus has announced that it will speed up the implementation of its social responsibility strategy, by introducing new marketing controls and bringing forward the introduction of compulsory identification on slot machines by a year.

Announcing the measures, and following the publication of its third quarter results, chief executive Olli Sarekoski acknowledged the ongoing debate about the role of gambling - and Veikkaus - in Finnish society.

“Public social debate has been rightfully concerned about whether it is acceptable that those who are in the weakest position of all have to suffer to benefit the common good,” he said. “The fact that the money goes to society and is further allocated to good purposes is probably not enough anymore to justify the problems caused.”

He admitted that Veikkaus’ current response to questions about its future, claiming it offers the safest possible way to gamble, is not a strong enough retort.

As such, he said, the company was updating its strategy to ensure it is taking full responsibility for player protection.

“A safer and more responsible gaming environment will provide the basis for everything we do in the future,” Sarkeoski explained. “Another big strategic goal is that we want to secure our leading market position in Finland, even in the digital environment, by 2025; and our third objective is that we should also be able to compete as an international B2B business.”

This will see Veikkaus launch compulsory player identification on all slot machines by January 2021, a year earlier than originally planned. This will not only require players to verify their identity before gambling, but also allow them to set time and spending limits, and self-exclude.

This, it added, would have a “significant impact” on the total number of slot machines in operation across Finland.

"The total number of slot machines will be reduced by up to 8,000 by the year 2025,” the operator’s senior vice president of legal affairs and corporate social responsibility (CSR) Pekka Ilmivalta said.

Veikkaus currently operates approximately 18,500 slot machines throughout the country, including in kiosks, shops, restaurants and service stations. This would be reduced to around 10,500 after the ID controls are brought in.

Furthermore, it has set out new guidelines for marketing, in the wake of controversy over an advertising campaign that critics claimed encouraged irresponsible gambling.

Following a review, which incorporated recommendations from an independent review carried out by public affairs agency Tekir, the operator claims to have developed a new, socially responsible strategy.

“We have laid down new guidelines for Veikkaus’ responsible marketing,” chief operating officer Nora Vähävirta explained. “They affect the volume, content, supervision, and processes of marketing. We are about to create a new corporate culture for marketing.”

Veikkaus has come under increasing pressure in recent months, with polls suggesting a growing number of Finns did not agree that it deserved a monopoly over gambling in the country. Executives have twice been forced to publicly defend the business, over claims that it harms society and should be broken up, then over allegations that it significantly understates its gaming machine turnover.

Earlier this week a report by Finland’s Competition and Consumer Authority argued the regulatory framework governing Veikkaus was not fit for purpose, and that a centralised gambling authority should be established. This, it said, would better protect players and ensure the operator conducted business in a fair manner.

The report is the first in a series that will ultimately look to make a judgement on whether Veikkaus’ monopoly should continue.

An unspecified threat against the business was even made over the weekend, which prompted police to visit Sarekoski.