Finnish casino sites come in two flavours. On one side, we have a shortlist of government-run gambling websites that funnel their profits back to charitable organizations. On the other is a long list of private operators headquartered out of other nations. The government would like to maintain an absolute monopoly by banning offshore online casinos, but it has so far opted not to pass any laws prohibiting play at international sites.
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Both types of online casinos have their pros and cons. Government-backed gambling sites offer the peace of mind that comes with doing business with highly regulated websites and knowing that any losses go to support charitable causes.
The downside to government-run casinos is they have less incentive to offer things like big bonuses and better odds due to having a virtual monopoly over online gambling. Without competition, there is less incentive for these sites to work as hard for your business. And in Finland specifically, the local gambling operators are not even allowed to offer welcome bonuses.
International online casinos typically offer better odds and promotions due to operating in a highly competitive market. When a new gambling site is never more than a few clicks away, operators are willing to go to greater lengths to attract and keep your business.
There are no laws that make it an offense for players to do business with international operators. So, you can make your decision based on your personal preferences. If you like to do things strictly by the book and in absolute compliance with the intent of the law, local Finnish casino sites are the way to go. The same would also apply if you value the idea of any losses you incur being used to support good causes.
On the other hand, international online casinos are the way to go if your overriding concern is getting maximum value for your money. We have no horse in this race, so feel free to make the decision that best aligns with your personal goals and values. Our top-rated Finland casinos consist of a combination of government-run and offshore gambling sites.
Finnish Gambling Laws
Both online and real-world gambling are legal in Finland under a system that divvies up different types of gambling among three government-approved operators in Finland and one operator in the Åland Islands.
These operators are:
RAY (Raha-automaattiyhdistys or “Finland Slot Machine Association”): RAY has a government-sponsored monopoly over all casino gambling activities in Finland. They have exclusive rights to operate casino games such as slot machines, roulette and so on at both physical locations and online in Finland. Proceeds earned by RAY are designated to support health and social welfare programs.
Official website: https://www.ray.fi/
Veikkaus: Veikkaus is the official provider of lottery games, pools, betting games, instant win games and other draw games in Finland. The company raises more than €10 million every week for Finnish arts, sports, science and youth work.
Official website: https://www.veikkaus.fi/
Fintoto Oy: Fintoto has a government-granted monopoly to organize horse racing betting in Finland. The company’s mission is to offer horse betting in order to raise funds for and promote horse breeding and equestrian sports.
Official website: https://www.fintoto.fi/
PAF (Ålands Penningautomatförening also sometimes called “Play Among Friends”): Paf is the monopoly provider for gambling on the Åland Islands. They operate physical casinos as well as an online casino site that accepts Finnish players. Paf online casino also accepts customers from Sweden, Estonia, Spain and Italy.
The Finnish Lotteries Act (full text here) required the organizers of all gaming and lottery activities to hold a government-issued license and to dedicate their proceeds to specific charitable causes. To date, the government has insisted on maintaining a state monopoly over all forms of gambling available in Finland.
Finnish law does provide punishments for those who operate online casinos or other forms of gambling without explicit approval from the state. The original law as well as amendments to the law add further penalties for those who advertise or promote unlicensed offshore gaming providers.
A 2008 amendment to the Lotteries Act expanded the definition of “marketing” to prohibit a wider range of promotional activities. Under the amendment, people associated with unlicensed Finnish casino sites and even editors of publications that advertise for those sites may be punished by the law.
No law in Finland prohibits individual citizens from playing at international casino sites. There are also no laws in place to censor the internet or block payments to unlicensed gaming websites. Thus, Finnish gamblers have no problems visiting online casinos, singing up for accounts, making deposits and getting paid. The current legal situation is actually pretty good from the players’ point of view.
However, the government has been mulling over the idea of blocking access to offshore casino sites and implementing payment-blocking procedures. The domestic gambling industry in Finland brings in yearly revenues of roughly €1.7 billion even though Finns are also estimated to place €130 million worth of wagers at offshore sites every year.
The government-backed monopoly providers have been complaining about this situation for several years now. They note that offshore gambling websites are subject to fewer advertising restrictions and have the ability to offer large welcome bonuses that domestic companies are prohibited from offering.
High ranking executives at Finland’s gambling providers have pushed for the government to do more to protect the monopoly. The government has been slow to act, possibly due to an ongoing dispute with the EU over Finland’s insistence on maintaining a monopoly over gambling.
EU free trade agreements require member states to provide a level playing field for competition from other member states for all activities that are deemed legal. Finland could ban gambling outright, for example, and that would be fine. But since Finland does not prohibit gambling, the EU insists it must allow other EU-based gambling companies access to the market.
Finland argues that EU laws do in fact allow monopolies over certain industries if the purpose of the monopoly is to minimize participation in some activity or to reduce social harms. That is correct, but Finnish gambling providers do advertise themselves openly and that seems to indicate the intent of the monopoly isn’t about minimizing gambling as it is simply maintaining a monopoly over a lucrative industry.
The dispute has died down over recent years, but the matter has never been settled once and for all. It appears unlikely at this time that anything will change soon. The EU does not seem particularly disturbed by Finland’s activities even if their legality is questionable.
Wes Burns co-founded OnlineCasinoSites.com with a mission to help gamblers understand and navigate the regulated online casino market in all countries around the world. Wes is a respected gambling journalist, working in the industry since 2008.