Finland government support for online poker monopoly draws criticism

Finland's government may need to batten down the hatches for an imminent media and advertising storm generated by its attempts to establish an online poker monopoly. The Finns started manoeuvring on the issue at the beginning of 2010, when the government released its plan to open a state-run internet poker room along the lines of the lucrative Svenska Spel and Danske Spil models, now the subject of EC-prompted liberalisation.

Playtech scored a coup in May this year in winning the contract for the software and technology chosen to power the new business, CardPlayer Magazine reported recently.

The magazine's Finnish representative, Timo Korppi, flagged areas of conflict in the government initiative, noting that many media companies in the Nordic country are deeply concerned at the prospect of commercial competition being stifled.

Korppi observed in the article that parliament "rubberstamped" the new gambling law late in June this year, doing so without the benefit of a serious parliamentary debate on the issue, probably because it wanted to push the legislation through in order to secure market positioning for its chosen vehicle, RAY's, due to launch in the northern autumn this year.

"In practical terms (foreign) online poker and casino businesses are now banned from advertising or promoting their services in media published or aired in Finland by locally owned companies," Korppi wrote in the August 10 edition of CardPlayer.

CardPlayer itself should not be impacted - its associated titles, Pokeri, CardPlayer Finland and PokerMagazine are printed and published from another EU country in the region, Estonia, before being imported into Finland as foreign publications, thus avoiding the media restrictions enshrined in the new gaming law.

Korppi notes that the mainstream media in Finland is outraged by the government moves, which it sees as unfair, against the spirit of free speech and devised solely to serve the needs of the newly introduced gambling monopoly.

Source: InfoPowa News

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17 August 2010 - 3:11pm

This is a widely debated issue, not only in Finland, but in many other countries. The same thing is going on in Serbia. The government's National Company for Games of Chance is the only one in the country which may organize and issue licenses for organizing games of chance. Therefore, it is prohibited to even advertise games of chance without an adequate license, which can be obtained God-knows-how. So, some months ago, we had a case of two guys who had affiliate sites (not registered in Serbia), being arrested for "organizing games of chance." Finally, they figured they cannot charge them with that, so they accused them of tax avoidance.

And these days, as practically no one else can open an online casino in Serbia (or at least no one without fat connections and a hilarious amount of money), the National Games of Chance Company launched its own casino in Serbian. So far, it's the only one registered in Serbia. One of the reasons must be the ridiculous taxes the government imposes in Serbia, and the other is certainly the monopoly held by the government company.