The Helsinki Administrative Court has handed down an interim ruling in favour of Betsson’s appeal against a marketing prohibition order in Finland.

In May, the Finnish National Police Board (NPD) took action against Betsson’s BML Group subsidiary for advertising extensively across the country on various channels.

The regulatory body issued a prohibition order against such activity, to commence from 3 June, along with a record €2.4m conditional fine which would have been enforced if BML Group did not comply.

The prohibition order was designed to stop Betsson from marketing in Finland by forbidding the use of Finnish celebrities in campaigns, as well as the publication of podcasts, videos, and articles to promote Betsson offerings, and even affiliate marketing activity.

Betsson was widely expected to appeal the order, and it did so on 29 May.

iGaming NEXT understands the Helsinki Administrative Court has ruled as part of an interim decision published on 2 June that the NPB cannot enforce the prohibition order until it has permanently decided on the appeal.

“We have won the request for interim measures and the court has agreed that there is no reason to enforce the prohibition order until there is a final decision on the appeal,” a Betsson Group spokesperson told iGaming NEXT.

“This means the prohibition order is not in force,” they confirmed.

This development has been described as “exceptional” by Finnish gaming expert and iGaming lawyer Antti Koivula as there is no precedent for such a ruling, with appeal deliberations often taking up to 18 months.  

“We are not aware of an interim decision having ever been made like this,” he added.

The rationale for the court’s interim judgement is still to be confirmed, although some sources have suggested it could centre on the NPB’s payment blocking order.

As part of the prohibition order, Betsson subsidiary BML Group was destined to be added to the regulator’s payment service provider (PSP) blacklist.

This new addition to the law came into force on 1 January 2022, but was scheduled to be enforced from 2023.

However, the court’s decision will likely be viewed as something of a roadblock for the NPB, whose PSP blocking powers had already been approved by the Finnish government.

On the contrary, the news will provide a welcome boost for international operators that intend to offer their services to Finnish consumers.

The online gambling industry had been watching this case closely.

If the order was applied, Betsson and other operators would have been forced to cease marketing for fear of facing substantial fines and payment blocks in the country.

As it stands, international operators will be content to continue marketing in the country in the absence of a sufficiently deterrent legal ruling.

The case is far from over. A final decision will still need to be reached amid a judicial process that could take months, with both parties reportedly ready to appeal against an unfavourable verdict.

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

Following the interim decision on BML Group, domestic regulators will be hoping to avoid a “free for all” scenario in the intervening period between now and the launch of an alternative licensing framework.  

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.

Finland’s National Police Board (NPB) has released a series of social media ads that have caused quite the stir in the iGaming industry.

The videos, which are being shared on TikTok and Instagram and can also be found on the police’s YouTube channel Poliisitube, are part of the “Ei mitään rajaa” (No Limit) campaign that aims to raise awareness of illegal gambling marketing among young adults.

However, the controversial content of the videos has raised concerns about the campaign’s effectiveness and appropriateness.

To date, two videos have been published. In the first video, a streamer encourages Finns to take loans to fund gambling, and in the second video, to sell their organs for the same purpose.

Video message

Here’s an unofficial English translation of the first video: “Hello and welcome to my channel! My name is Mintti and today I have something very exciting to share with you. If you’re like me and you haven’t yet taken out a full student loan, I have an excellent way for you to use that money.

“Did you know that you can grow your money by playing on the sponsor’s site featured in this video, without any interference from Finland’s consumer protection laws or loss limits? [text “play on debt!” appears on the screen]. You can use your student loan to register on the site at www… But hey, I cannot say this?”

Translation of the second video: “Hi! I’m Mintti. Welcome to my channel. I have a money-making idea for you! If you want to gamble on the sponsor’s site featured in this video, but you don’t have any money and you’ve already lost your creditworthiness [text “don’t worry” appears on the screen], you can quickly make some money by selling one of your kidneys [pictures of € symbols and kidneys appear on the screen].

“As human beings, we have two kidneys, but we only need one… are you serious that this is the script? [text “recognise illegal gambling marketing” appears, along with a hashtag and the NPB’s logo].”

Industry reaction

“The campaign itself has no doubt a supportable aim – to raise awareness among young adults about illegal gambling advertising. However, the videos, which are really the core of the campaign, are rather absurd,” Antti Koivula, partner and legal adviser at Finnish gaming law firm Legal Gaming told iGaming NEXT.

He has been closely following the Finnish gambling market for two decades and said he has “never seen the enforcement authority engaging in a marketing campaign like this”.

“It must be underlined that the campaign was funded, planned, and implemented ultimately by the Finnish police, and one could expect their campaigns to fulfil certain standards,” he said.

Koivula concluded by saying: “I cannot help but question whether this is an appropriate use of the NPB’s increased funding.”

Koivula, who also shared his thoughts on LinkedIn, received significant support from the iGaming industry. Many industry professionals expressed similar concerns on social media.

Finland is the only EU member state which to date still operates an exclusive online gambling monopoly model, although the government is preparing a move to an international licensing system.

However, thus far, the Finnish authorities are intent on cracking down on operators which – in spite of the ban – market their products to Finnish players through measures such as payment blocking.