Advertising of gambling services by an international broadcaster prohibited under penalty of a fine
On 16 September 2021, the National Police Board of Finland prohibited Eurosport SAS (Eurosport) from marketing gambling services in Mainland Finland on the Eurosport 1 television channel.
The prohibition remains valid for a period of three months and shall apply from 30 days after the date of service of the decision, unless otherwise directed by the appeal authority.
According to the National Police Board’s knowledge Eurosport has received the decision on 28 September 2021. In order to reinforce the prohibition, the National Police Board has imposed a conditional fine of EUR 800,000 on Eurosport. The decision is not final.
The National Police Board has detected marketing of gambling services on the company's Eurosport 1 television channel in Finland. The marketing of gambling services has occurred regularly, extensively and for several years. Gambling services have been marketed in advertisements during commercial breaks in television broadcasting.
“The supervision process in accordance with our legislation gives companies the opportunity to alter their operations and have their views heard,” says Anna-Emilia Sirén, Senior Adviser, Gambling Administration at the National Police Board.
Despite a number of exhortations, Eurosport has, however, continued the marketing that is considered unlawful by the authority.
The National Police Board regards the advertising of gambling services on the channel to be targeted at Mainland Finland and the consumers there. For example, the advertisements propose Finnish banks’ bank credentials as one of the authentication options. In addition, the advertisements of gambling services in question have mainly been in Finnish, and they have been shown during advertising breaks of television broadcasts to Finland.
Moreover, a celebrity, known only at the national level in Finland, has featured in the advertising of gambling services, and, with regard to responsible gambling, references have been made to Peluuri, a service that prevents and reduces the problems caused by gambling in Finland.
The supervision process is often effective even before a prohibition decision is issued
Before imposing the marketing ban, the National Police Board has issued a statement to the company about the marketing of gambling and informed the company of the fact that Veikkaus Oy holds the exclusive right to market gambling services in Mainland Finland. In its statement, the National Police Board stated, among other things, that the marketing of gambling services on the channel violates Finland’s national legislation, regardless of the marketing being carried out from outside the Finnish borders. Eurosport has not provided a response to the statement issued by the National Police Board in March 2021.
“The starting point for supervision is that the full range of methods, from the lenient to the strict, are used,” Sirén says. “As an authority, we take the other party’s views into account, but if necessary, we prohibit the activity that we consider unlawful.”
In many cases, the supervision process is already effective when the authority expresses its opinion on the illegality of the activity. With TV broadcasters in particular, there has been disagreement about the impact of EU law on the illegality of activities. The National Police Board has taken measures not only against Eurosport, but two other international TV broadcasters as well. One of those companies has stopped the marketing of gambling services targeted at Finland. The supervision measures against the other company are still ongoing.
Intervention in illegal gambling activities and marketing of gambling services is a statutory duty of the National Police Board
Pursuant to the Finnish Lotteries Act, it is prohibited to sell or supply tickets for a lottery or any other gambling services than those provided by Veikkaus Oy, or market such a lottery. The National Police Board is responsible for the national supervision of the provision of lotteries and may prohibit the unlawful running and marketing of gambling services. The goal of the Finnish gambling system is to prevent and reduce the harm caused by gambling. The running of lotteries is monitored in order to ensure the legal protection of the lottery participants, to prevent misuse and crime and to reduce the social and health-related harm resulting from lotteries.
“The marketing of gambling services is strictly regulated in the Lotteries Act in order to protect consumers from the harm caused by gambling. Cross-border marketing of gambling, in violation of the Lotteries Act, aims to increase gambling and impedes achieving the goals set for the Finnish gambling system,” Sirén says.