Payment blocks for gambling services enter into force at the beginning of 2023
Gambling problems seem to be more closely linked to online gambling services and especially to gambling sites that are not allowed to operate or market gambling services in Mainland Finland according to the Lotteries Act. In recent years, the percentage of the adult population using gambling services on such sites has stabilised at 5–6 per cent. The National Police Board’s Gambling Administration estimates that some EUR 250–300 million is lost annually in gambling services outside Mainland Finland.
Aim to prevent harm and protect consumers
Payment blocks for gambling services will enter into force at the beginning of 2023. The goal of the payment blocks is to have an impact on the range of gambling services in Mainland Finland, as harm can be prevented effectively by affecting gambling services and their availability and accessibility. Gambling services outside Mainland Finland are not restricted or regulated by the Lotteries Act. Instead, it was decided to restrict the availability of gambling services to protect consumers against harm resulting from gambling and to safeguard the system of exclusive rights.
The payment blocks will probably have a more significant impact on preventing harm than on reducing it. The blocks will probably affect occasional and moderate players more significantly and increase awareness of consumer protection risks associated with gambling abroad. Instead, the impact on frequent, high-risk and problem players will be lower, the National Police Board estimates.
Payments from player to operators to be restricted
The payment blocks will restrict payments from players to such gambling operators that have obtained the National Police Board’s decision to prohibit marketing in violation of the Lotteries Act. From the beginning of 2023, the payment blocks will at least concern Nordic Tech Services N.V. and Viking Technology, N.V., gambling operators whose prohibition to market gambling services will continue at least until 4 May 2023. Currently, the administrative process for possibly imposing a prohibition is in progress regarding five foreign gambling operators.
- The payment blocks can be expected to reduce the willingness of gambling operators outside the system of exclusive rights to target marketing at players in Mainland Finland, says Juhani Ala-Kurikka, Senior Adviser at the National Police Board’s Gambling Administration. The payment blocks will be targeted at the gambling operators, which the National Police Board has stated in its decisions on prohibitions to market gambling services in violation of the Lotteries Act, says Ala-Kurikka.
The National Police Board may prohibit payment transactions
Payment service providers play a key role regarding the fulfilment of the payment blocks, as they are obligated to block payments as required by the National Police Board. If payments are not blocked in accordance with the payment blocks, the National Police Board may prohibit a payment service provider initiating and implementing payment transactions for gambling services. A conditional fine may be imposed to reinforce the prohibition.
List of payment blocks public
At the beginning of next year, the National Police Board will publish a list of payment blocks, and payment service providers should block gambling service payments transferred to the listed companies. The list of payment blocks and more information about the blocks will be published during January 2023 at https://poliisi.fi/en/blocking-payment-transactions.