Public Gaming International September/October

58 PUBLIC GAMING INTERNATIONAL • SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2023 THE UN-FINNISH STORY: WHERE IS THE GOVERNMENT OF FINLAND GOING WITH ITS NEW REGULATORY AGENDA? By Philippe Vlaemminck, Partner Vlaemminck.Law F inland has for decades been the example of good governance and innovation in the lotteries, betting & gambling sector. As early as 1996, Veikkaus had already explain ed at a European lottery congress how they were operating games through the Internet. Under the leadership of Risto Nieminen, Jussi Isotalo and Olli Sarekoski, Veikkaus, a fully state-owned company, not only grew its lottery and gaming revenues in a smart and responsible manner, it became a leader in diplomacy, public affairs and public relations. Veikkaus was a true ambassador of the Finnish way of living with appreciation for nature, culture and sport and with a strong social and responsible ethic. Veikkaus did play a decisive role in the emergence of the Macolin Convention on match fixing. Long before negotiations even started to create the Macolin Convention on match fixing, Risto Nieminen highlighted the problem of match fixing during the WLA conference in Rhodos, Greece in 2008. When the government decided to merge the three operators Veikkaus, Fintoto and Ray into a single entity, all put under the powerful Veikkaus brand, Finland was really the optimum showcase for the world lottery community: responsible, innovative and with a focus on service to society. What went wrong? Why did the government choose the route towards liberalization instead of law enforcement? As soon as the liberalization approach was announced, new Finnish gambling “experts” took the plan to conferences in Malta to announce to the international community of commercial online operators licensed in Malta the “good news: On Your Marks, the race to exploit the Finnish market will start soon”. The impression is left that today’s governments may no longer understand or appreciate the important societal role of lotteries or are aware of the case law of the Court of Justice of the EU that has shaped the way gambling and lottery can be regulated throughout the Union. Monopoly protection for lotteries in defense of Public Order, and against money laundering, and for protection of the consumer is allowed under EU laws. And in a democratic society, when a legislature sets up a monopoly, there is an obligation for the government to do everything to protect such monopoly according to its laws and commitments. Under European law we call this an obligation of “loyal cooperation”. There is a history to the evolution of these regulatory structures. In 2010 , under the previous Belgian Presidency of the European Union, the Member States adopted with unanimity the following declaration: Today, more than ten years later, this declaration is not yet fully implemented as a fundamental principle under EU law, although the Court of Justice did give us the necessary tools to do so in a number of cases. Lotteries stand for important non-economic values and societal principles that need protection just like economic freedoms need protection. That is why protection of Lotteries cannot be seen as an exception to or in conflict with economic freedoms, but of equal and constitutional importance to economic freedoms. The Court of Justice has in various cases affirm principles that uphold and endeavour to support such equal recognition. Recently, in Fluctus and Fluentum, the Court took a holistic view. The Court found that a system of organisation of the market in games of chance in Austria in which the advertising practices of the holder of the monopoly on lotteries and casinos is intended to encourage active participation in the games by conferring on it a positive image by virtue of the use of the proceeds for activities in the public interest, or by III. THE SUSTAINABLE CONTRIBUTION OF LOTTERY AND RELATED SERVICES TO SOCIETY RECALLS that all EU Member States have different types of state lotteries or lotteries licensed by the competent state authorities, providing lottery services. RECOGNIZES that contributions, in particular from state lotteries or lotteries licensed by the competent state authorities play an important role for society, via for example the funding of good causes, directly or indirectly where applicable. AGREES that this specific role should be recognized in discussions at the European level. Continued on page 56