Finnish authorities have launched an investigation into a Malta-based company for alleged illegal advertising aimed at Finnish customers.  

While the Finnish National Police Board (NPB) did not disclose the company’s name, Finnish public broadcaster Yle has identified the company as Gammix.

The NPB accuses Gammix of using aggressive marketing tactics to promote gambling games via various channels, including text messages, websites, and social media influencers.

The company’s Finnish-language marketing campaign even targeted minors through unsolicited text messages, according to the NPB.

Chief inspector Johanna Syväterä said the marketing campaign was not related to existing customer relationships and was intended to expand the operator’s customer base.

Gammix allegedly used Finnish-language affiliate websites and social media influencers with limited recognition outside Finland to promote its campaign.

The Finnish authorities are particularly concerned about the marketing of gambling products to minors.

Increase in reports

The NPB said that its own marketing campaign has been instrumental in raising awareness of illegal gambling advertising practices and has helped to receive notifications from citizens.

In January, the NPB released a series of social media ads that have created controversy in the iGaming industry due to the nature of their content.

According to Syväterä, the campaign had a significant impact on increasing marketing-related notifications, with almost a 33% increase observed.

This has enabled authorities to focus their surveillance efforts on areas with the most active marketing activities.

In mainland Finland, the marketing of gambling is strictly prohibited, outside of advertising monopoly operator Veikkaus.

The NPB has sent a request for clarification to Gammix and may impose a fine for illegal marketing practices.

iGaming NEXT has also reached out to Gammix and the NPB for comment.

Finland’s Lotteries Act empowers authorities to impose administrative penalties on companies, up to 4% of their turnover and a maximum of €5m.

The Finnish authorities are determined to take action against operators who advertise their products to Finnish players, despite the ban.

Last month, Gammix was hit with a €4.4m fine in the Netherlands for ignoring a cease-and-desist order from the regulator.

Eurosport case overturned

However, just yesterday (19 April) the Helsinki Administrative Court overturned the NPB’s decision to ban gambling advertising on Eurosport 1 (Finland).

The NPB had prohibited the TV channel from marketing gambling products on the channel.

The NPB argued that the gambling ads shown on Eurosport Finland, which were broadcast from France to Finland, were not permitted by the Lotteries Act.

However, the Administrative Court found the decision to be in violation of the EU’s Audiovisual Media Services Directive (AVMSD).

The Court ruled that the NPB had restricted the transmission of television broadcasts from another EU member state in Finland, which was against the AV Directive.

The decision can still be appealed to Finland’s Supreme Administrative Court.

“The ruling was well-written and left no doubts. I would consider it a waste of resources for the NPB to appeal,” Antti Koivula, partner and legal adviser at Finnish gaming law firm Legal Gaming told iGaming NEXT.

He stressed that the ruling is significant as it is the first time a Finnish court has examined the NPB’s authority to intervene in TV broadcasts from another EU state.

Nonetheless, Koivula believes the the impact of the case will be limited, as it only concerned the AVMSD and not the Finnish Lotteries Act.

Finland is currently in the spotlight as the country is removing its monopoly model on gambling and considering the introduction of a licensing system.

Finland is currently the centre of attention in the iGaming industry as the country is in the process of removing its monopoly model on gambling and considering the introduction of a licensing system.

While the end of Finland’s gambling monopoly model seems ever more likely, Swedish trade organisation BOS has insisted on change at state-run gambling operator Svenska Spel.

“The current gambling system needs to be changed,” Velipekka Nummikoski, vice president of Finnish state-owned gambling and lottery monopoly Veikkaus told Finnish news agency STT yesterday (28 December).

“A situation where Veikkaus has a formal but not actual monopoly” is not in anyone’s interest, Nummikoski said.

In August, Veikkaus CEO Olli Sarekoski kickstarted a fresh discussion on Finnish gambling regulation.

He stressed that Finland needs to start thinking about bringing all gambling under the same regulation as Veikkaus’ online revenue and market share dropped significantly.

This move would mean dismantling Veikkaus’ monopoly and switching to an international licensing model.

“The discussion has been heating up for quite some time now and there appears to be very little disagreement,” Antti Koivula, partner and legal adviser at Finnish gaming law firm Legal Gaming, commented on LinkedIn today (29 December).

Koivula previously told iGaming NEXT that he expects Finland to have a licensing system in place by 2026.

With three months to the Finnish parliamentary elections, Koivula now wrote that the main question is whether the current government will initiative the process prior to the elections, or if the industry will have to wait for the next government to do it.

Meanwhile in Sweden, Gustaf Hoffstedt, secretary general of the Swedish trade association for online gambling BOS, urged the government to sell the betting and online casino part of governmental gambling operator Svenska Spel in 2023.

In an opinion piece for Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter, Hoffstedt stressed the state should have no particular advantage in this market and that the presence of Svenska Spel is an infringement on commercial gambling.

There are currently 70 licensed operators in the competitive market fighting for market share, and Hoffstedt argued that competition is already fierce and would remain so without the state’s presence as a commercial casino operator and bookmaker.

“Normally, the state engages in business activities when the market itself has failed, above all in terms of competition,” Hoffstedt wrote.

“However, no one who has followed developments in the Swedish gambling market can claim that there is too little competition between the 70 companies that operate in competitive gambling,” he added.

Hoffstedt concluded that the Swedish government needs to establish a “fundamental distinction” between being the ruler setter of the Swedish gambling industry and a commercial operator.