State-owned monopoly to consider online gaming

RAY, Finland’s state-owned Slot Machine Association, is considering proposals to make their games available online, with their Board of Administration expecting to announce during the second quarter of 2008 whether they will be able to do so.

RAY’s activities currently meet legal justifications confirmed by the European Court of Justice in 1999, for the organization’s exclusive rights in Finland to operate slot machines and casino table games and a casino. However, RAY has also noted the fact that a number of European countries have been subject to measures taken by the EU Commission for providing online games.

Jukka Vihriälä, Chairman of RAY’s Board of Administration said at RAY’s General Meeting: “We are considering under what judicial, political, financial and ethical conditions Internet distribution would be possible. We need to consider very carefully whether Internet distribution would unsettle the conditions for RAY’s independence and exclusive right to the extent that the risk is not worth taking,”

Currently Finland runs gaming operations via slot machines, toto (betting) and loto under separate government monopolies, RAY, Fintoto and Veikkaus respectively.

Stefan Wallin, the Minister of Culture and Sports, recently suggested one of the Finnish gambling monopolies, Veikkaus or RAY, should take control of online gambling “so that the profits could be channelled to benefit civic society.”

He justified his proposal on the basis that the current system is ‘unsatisfactory’ cited “increasing cases of problem gambling” as one reason, and more crucially that “the winnings of existing gaming websites are flowing to companies operating from foreign tax havens.”

Although this view differs from those of Kari Paaso from the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health who previously told Gaming Intelligence Group that if online gaming was banned in Finland, the state would not offer an alternative. RAY was established in 1938 to raise funds in order to support the Finnish health and welfare organizations through their gaming operations.