Bordering Germany, Norway and Sweden, Finland is home to the Baltic Sea islands, a peninsula, the Suomenlinna (sea fortress from the 18th century), diverse and distinct museums (the Finnish Hockey Hall of Fame as a prime example), the Design District in Helsinki, views of the Northern Lights, Aalto furniture, the Arctic Lapland with ski resorts and public parks following an expansive wild, Marimekko fabrics, lakes in the thousands, Olavinlinna island castle, an Iron Age fortress, and iconic saunas. An additional feature is its wealthy and extensive gambling industry.
The history of Finland as a country is paramount to the history of gambling and casinos in Finland. First, the country’s history began as the last glacial period came to an end around 9000 BC. Then, it came to the Bronze Age (1500 BC) and the Iron Age (500 BC). In the 12th century, Finland earned its first written notation following the growth of Catholicism (especially in the Southwestern region of Finland); the missionaries arrived in 1155. Accordingly, the religion grew nationwide around the 13th century as most Finnish areas became a segment of the Kingdom of Sweden.
Gambling, especially lottery games, gained popularity in the Grand Duchy of Finland in the 17th century. Moving on, there was a war between the Russian Empire and the Kingdom of Sweden in 1809 – the Finnish War – which lasted for one and a half years. After the war, the Russian Empire acquired the greater percentage of the Finnish areas of the Kingdom of Sweden and Catholicism was replaced with Lutheranism.
Consequently, gambling lost its popularity in Finland because of the new Russian rule. In 1899, a penal code was introduced and passed which made all forms of gambling a criminal, illegal act. In the late-19th century, Finland started emerging as a nation. During this period, Finnish culture, literature, language, music, and mythology became more significant (the Kalevala of 1835 and 1849 as a prime example).
From 1866 to 1868, a famine wrecked Finland but the nation quickly counteracted with strengthened economic ground rules and Finnish people emigrating expansively. On December 6, 1917, Finland declared independence from Russia; under the directorship of P.E. Svinhufvud, the Senate persuaded the Parliament to approve the independence. Accordingly, the initial penal code on gambling was abolished and gambling started gaining popularity once again.
In 1919, Finland became the Republic of Finland instead of the previous Grand Duchy of Finland, the constitution currently in use was adopted, and a civil war between the White Guard and the Red Guards emerged with the former unfolding as the winner. A year later, the first slot machines from Germany came into the country. By 1933, the government realized the potential of slot machines and limited operations to charity organizations exclusively. In 1938, RAY was established as the Finnish Slot Machine Association to oversee and manufacture slot machines for charity, health, and social issues.
Instantaneously, the country’s overall economy grew following the end of the internal affairs and the full effect of independence. While Finland built a relationship with Britain, Sweden, and other Western countries, the Soviet Union tensioned the country. During World War II, the Winter War and the Continuation War, Finland stood its ground against the Soviet Union and secured its independence. However, some Finnish areas and the major areas of Karelia were transferred to the Soviet Union in respect of a peace settlement, though Finland remained independent.
After these issues, Finland’s economy witnessed a mixed growth. In 1955, Finland joined the United Nations. From 1970 to 1990, Finland’s economy became one of the strongest in the world. Unfortunately, in 1992, its economy was in competition with Russia’s and the Western countries’. Ten years later, Finland ditched its traditional Finnish markka for the Euro – following its European Union jointure in 1995.
On January 01 1966, the first official gambling law – Lottery Act (491/65) – came into existence. At the time, the Act covered lottery, bingo, slots and other games (where there is a probability of winning money). The very first independent casino in Finland, Casino Helsinki, was established in 1991. Five years later, online gambling was introduced into the country when the National Lottery of Finland was permitted to operate online.
However, gambling online in Finland is more complicated than usual. The player must be at least 18 years old, registered by providing some personal data, and have a Finnish security number, bank account, and permanent address. In 2012, the Act was modified – operators were allowed to build casinos and other gambling facilities in anywhere within the country, even the Russian borderline Vaalimaa.
Further, the Ministry of the Interior (or the Ministry of Internal Affairs like in most countries) controls all gambling activities and facilities within the country and the gambling industry is greatly monopolized by three companies. Fintoto Oy controlled everything horse racing, Veikkaus Oy was responsible for the lottery and bingo games, and the Finnish Slot Machine Association (RAY or Raha-automaattiyhdistys) controlled slot machines, table games, and other casino games. Fintoto Oy was later abolished in 2016 following the introduction of a Fintoto Oy, Veikkaus Oy and the Finnish Slot Machine Association (RAY) merger which happened in 2017, in which a new and improved Veikkaus Oy was created. With the new merger, eSports and Fantasy Sports were introduced.
Additionally, Paf (or Ålands Penningautomatförening) is another monopoly-driven Finnish gambling company which operates a small portion of the offline gambling industry and a great portion of the online gambling industry. The company offers lottery games, slot machines, bingo, poker, tables games, skill games, recreational activities and more – both online and offline (on the Åland Islands).
Meanwhile, gambling is heavily monopolized by the government because gambling is generally for generating revenue for non-profit, social and healthcare purposes and organizations. All the money generated are used for public welfare, horse feeding, activities (social, environmental, arts and culture), sports, development (youths and societies), contributions (leadership, events, and projects), etc.
In Finland, casino gambling and other forms of gambling are flawlessly legal, licensed and regulated. Although monopolized, online gambling is also legal, licensed and regulated. There are 87 gambling facilities in Finland, which consist of casinos, dog and horse racetracks, and cruise ships.
The gambling industry of Finland, although heavily monopolized, is quite expansive. The atmosphere readily available is pleasing as well, as most casinos serve local and foreign players. The country itself is rich in history and a great tourist destination, so gambling in Finland as a foreigner is without any problem.
Casinos and other gambling facilities in Finland are spread throughout over 50 cities and towns in Aland, Lapland, Oulu, Southern Finland, Western Finland, and Eastern Finland. Espoo, Helsinki, Lahti, Tampere, and Turku are the most significant gambling destinations in Finland. Helsinki, which is the country’s capital, is largest gambling city – which boasts six gambling facilities. Espoo also offers six facilities but are smaller than those in Helsinki.
With 300 gaming machines, 20 table games, a poker room and a sports betting bar, Casino Helsinki is the largest casino in Finland. All gambling facilities in Espoo boast figures a bit above 100 gaming machines and six table games. Furthermore, the second largest casino is Casino Mariehamn or Paf Casino at Arkipelag Hotel & Casino, which offers 65 gaming machines and three table games.
There are more than just casinos within the regions of Finland. In fact, there are various racetracks individually for dog and horse racing. There are two cruise ships, four dog racetracks, 41 horse racetracks, and 40 casinos and arcades.
Finnish casinos are mainly standalone casino gambling houses but a handful of Finnish casinos are segments of large hotels – the Paf Casino as a prime example. Also, they usually offer poker tournaments (especially the Paf Casino) and many varied casino games and machines such as roulette, blackjack, slot machines, punto banco, American roulette, Hazard, baccarat, Chuck-a-Luck, and craps.
Poker is significantly popular throughout Finland, with prominent games such as Pot Limit Omaha, Omaha, Texas Hold’em, Oasis Stud poker, Soko (Scandinavian variant of 5 Card Stud), Crazy Pineapple, Dynamic Poker, 7 Card Stud poker, Joker Poker, No Limit Texas Hold’em, Pick’em Poker, Dynamic Poker Pro, Russian poker, and Jacks or Better.
Bingo, on the other hand, is not as popular – and operated alongside lottery games such as Joker and Keno. The Finnish National Lottery, as earlier stated, is a state monopoly controlled by Veikkaus Oy and Paf. Presently, there are more than 70,000 registered lottery players in Finland and about 40,000 of them play lottery games online.
On top of that, sports (especially horse races) betting has been widely favored amongst Finns since gambling became popular. Football (or soccer) is also popular but minimal when compared to other European and Scandinavia countries.
Lastly, online gambling is popular in Finland and legal. While the government is yet to issue a license to any private company, Finns and foreigners on the land can access offshore gambling websites. Internet gambling is provided by the aforementioned companies and an addition of ATG and Svenska Spel Ab.
Below is a list of all casinos currently operating in the regions of Finland.
Arkipelag Hotel & Paf Casino (Casino Mariehamn)
Feel Vegas Casino Iso Omena
Feel Vegas Casino Kuopio
Feel Vegas Casino Rovaniemi
Feel Vegas Casino Sello
Feel Vegas Jyvaskyla
Grand Casino Helsinki
Pelaamo Espoo Entresse
Pelaamo Espoo Iso Omena
Pelaamo Espoo Lippulaiva
Pelaamo Helsinki Kaisaniemi
Pelaamo Helsinki Kaivopiha
Pelaamo Helsinki Myllypuro
– In Finland, one has to be at least 18 years to gamble in casinos and gaming arcades but at least 15 years in other facilities. Pertaining the lottery, 15 years offline and 18 years online. However, there have been efforts to standardize the minimum gambling as 18 years by the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health.
– Presently, Finland’s gambling industry generates a whopping sum of €1.7 billion per annum. Also, about €130 million is spent by Finns annually by gambling with offshore gambling operators.
– Paf (or Ålands Penningautomatförening) was founded in 1966 and made a profit of €15.2 million in 2016. In 2015, the company spread €20.7 million to numerous sectors of the country as loans and grants.
– Fintoto Oy was founded in 2001 and was abolished in 2016. Suomen Hippos ry owned its total stock. V5 and V75 games were available, provided by Veikkaus Oy.
– The name Veikkaus Oy was picked for the merger because two third of 4,600 Finns who responded to different surveys preferred the name.
– The old Veikkaus Oy was controlled by the Parliament, the Ministry of the Interior, and the Ministry of Education and Culture.
– While gambling is heavily monopolised by the federal government, Finns and visitors can access foreign gambling websites.
– A Swede player by the name Ramzi Jelassi, amidst more than 139 players, won €116,000 in Casino Helsinki’s Helsinki Midnight Sun in 2010.
– Historically, the old Veikkaus Oy was the world’s first national online lottery.
– There have been many conflicts between Paf and the Finnish government due to Paf stealing from the market allocated to RAY.
– There are more than 272 websites which allow Finns to gamble online.
– At least 87 percent of Finns have, at one point in time, participated in a form of gambling. While about 47 percent gamble once or more per week, 10 percent gamble evidently throughout the week. Lastly, four fifth of Finn players are males who spend €14 averagely on gambling per week.
– About 125,000 Finns played one or more poker games online in 2005.
– Slot machines, lottery games, and scratch cards are the most popular gambling activities in Finland. Slot machines are available in casinos, bars, restaurants, pubs, supermarkets and arcades.
– In 1982, blackjack first appeared in Finland.
– In 1969, the first roulette on Finnish mainland appeared. But, it had appear in the Aland Islands five years earlier.
– The Small Town Poker Tour and the Extreme Poker Challenge have been hosted in Finland.
– Casino Mariehamn or Paf Casino at Arkipelag Hotel & Casino features a Mystery Jackpot, which rewards the winner with any amount shown atop the machine’s screen while other players share 30 percent of the whole jackpot.
– While Grand Casino Helsinki is the oldest Finnish casino, Arkipelag Hotel was established in the 1970s but the Paf Casino was added many decades later – precisely 2010.
– Paf Casino or Casino Mariehamn has already donated more than €160 for charitable purposes.
– On 20 March 2017, Veikkaus partnered with Austrian gaming brand Win2Day.at to deliver a cross-border poker network by using liquidity separately from both player bases. This is the first of its kind.
– In 2013, eCOGRA officially accredited Paf.
– As a member of the European Union, Finland has been questioned numerous times for their strict monopoly and regulations policy. Yet, Finland seems to be everlastingly persistent with its laws and have insisted to keep the monopoly policy up and running.
– Bitcoin is widely in use in Finland and there exist many Bitcoin ATMs. Therefore, online Bitcoin gambling is alive in Finland. However, offline Bitcoin gambling is illegal.
– The Gambling Act states that only one online gambling license can be active at a time. Nonetheless, there are more than one organisations offering online gambling in Finland.
– European sports bookmaker Ladbrokes once tried to receive a Finnish gambling license to no avail.
– Payazzo was the first slot machine to appear in Finland in 1920. RAY also use this term as in payazzo machines.
– The Gambling Act in use was last modified in 2010. Correspondingly, foreign gambling operators cannot advertise or market in Finland although they are accessible. Going against this rule can warrant fines and even prison sentences on the gambling operators, advertising agency, and media company (or companies).