Finland Lotteries

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The basic statute governing gambling in Finland is the Lottery Act (491/65) of 1966. Under its description of “lotteries” are bingo, casino and slot machines offering money and commodities as prizes as well as the more widely accepted definition, which includes lotto and scratch card type games.

The Finnish government has licensed monopolies to offer lotteries nationwide in Finland. Perhaps the best known of these is Oy Veikkaus Ab, which presides over the Finnish National Lottery—the game known internationally as “Finland Lotto.” It features a 7/39 format and a minimum jackpot of €700,000, which increases each draw until hit. Drawings are conducted on Saturdays, and players must be at least 18 years of age.

Another restriction regarding Veikkaus lottery games is the requirement that one must establish a local bank account, which pretty much limits participation to citizens who deposit money into Veikkaus accounts. Tickets can then be purchased from the individual accounts, which also serve as a repository for winnings directly deposited. One estimate has put the number of registered lottery players in the country at 70,000.

Veikkaus also offers scratch cards, sold through a network of retail outlet numbering around 3,000. Printed instructions are in the Finnish language only. Each day, the Veikkaus games contribute over €1.4 million in revenue for Finnish society. All of the proceeds go to the Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture, which distributes them further to programmes related to Finnish arts, sports, science and youth work.

To confuse the situation a bit, a separate monopoly was granted for Internet gaming under Finland’s 2002 Act on Gaming. It stipulates that only one license for Internet gaming can be operational at a time. That right was granted to a Veikkaus competitor called Rahaautomaattiyhdistys, or “RAY” for short, so any online sales of Finland Lotto tickets must go through them, at least on the mainland.

Finland also has a province known as Åland, which comprises 6,500 islands in the eastern part of the Baltic Sea between Sweden and Finland. This province enjoys a high degree of autonomy and operates separately from the monopoly system. Since 1967, all gambling operations there have been managed by Ålands Penningautomatförening, or “PAF” for short. PAF’s revenues are retained locally to benefit the public welfare in the form of cultural programmes, social sector support and sports activities.

Because PAF oversees lottery games within Åland and has the right to make games available via the Internet, several clashes have occurred with the other monopolies in recent years. It is estimated PAF’s own lotteries have attracted roughly 40,000 Veikkaus customers that regularly play via the Internet.

In 2011, lightning struck twice when two massive Finland Lotto jackpots were won. The first came among some 20 million entries in April, when a lucky ticket holder from Espoo, Finland collected the full jackpot sum of €7.5 million—a national record. Then in September, Veikkaus celebrated its 70th anniversary with a special drawing worth €7.2 million. That jackpot was claimed by a single player from the town of Kalajoki.

Despite the internal squabbling over local jurisdictions, Veikkaus has discovered that even greater opportunities for expansion and profit exist abroad. Since 1993, the company has joined with lottery authorities in Denmark, Estonia, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway and Sweden to offer the first multi-national lottery in Europe. Dubbed “Viking Lotto Finland,” this game has a 6/48 format with drawings held on Wednesday evenings. By 15 August 2012, its progressive jackpot had grown to an astounding €2.6 million.

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