The overall online Gross Gaming Revenue (GGR) in Europe, which on average accounts for 0.5 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP), is predicted to reach 24.7 billion euros this year. Most of it is generated by online casinos, online lottery, and sports betting. So many Europeans gamble in Europe that some countries have started talking about sports betting as a national addiction. Among them, the United Kingdom leads the chart: as many as 2.1 million people here indulge in betting on sports outcomes. The second is France, where the total amount of sports betting wagers rose a couple of years ago to €585 million. The third comes Italy, whose gambling market is worth about €39 billion annually. Instead of saving for retirement, people in these countries eagerly squander their salaries in the hope of hitting the jackpot.
Finns are ranked fourth among the biggest gamblers, though the National Institute for Health and Welfare reported in 2015 that they bet the most in Europe, leaving the UK, France, and Italy behind. More than 80 percent of the population of Finland gamble, spending about €2 billion every year on various games of chance. With a steady growth of new online casinos – uudet nettikasinot, even more Finns are expected to get involved in gambling in the new decade of the 21st century.
Unlike other countries alarmed by their citizens’ addiction to gambling, Finland looks kindly at casinos, lotteries, and sports betting. The country prides itself on giving the lion share of the GGR to charity. The state-owned national betting agency Veikkaus gives about €1 billion in profit to government ministries and more than €200 million in taxes, which constitutes nearly 2 percent of the government budget. Gambling is, therefore, considered a civic obligation among Finns. Whatever large amount of personal money you lose while gambling, as a citizen of Finland, you always win.
The whole history of gambling in Finland has been charged with the nationalistic spirit that characterizes people’s attitude to this industry today. As early as in the 1920s, the country started exploiting lottery and betting to shore up the national identity of its people. In those years, Finns were wagering in Sweden, where gambling was legal, in contrast to Finland, whose government still looked at betting activities as sinful. Soon, it became clear, however, that leaving so much money in Sweden was detrimental to the economy of Finland. It made sense to keep gambling money in the country. The legalization of lotteries and horse betting immediately followed. In 1938, different welfare organizations founded RAY, Finland’s Slot Machine Association.
In 1940, these welfare companies founded Veikkaus, the state-owned national betting agency. Although, ostensibly, this was done to organize football pools, the establishment of Veikkaus served political and nationalistic interests of social democratic and rightist sport activists. Together, they hoped to curb the influence of communists in the Finnish labor sport movement. Gambling was meant to divert people’s attention from the communist ideology and, in so doing, prevent social unrests among them.
Gambling monopolies in the 1940s, just after the Winter War, turned advertisement into war propaganda. Their advertisements depicted war veterans and announced that the money that people spent on betting would be used to help them recover. Another leitmotif of these gambling advertisements was the sacrifice that war veterans were making for their fatherland. This type of propaganda was so successful that until these days gambling in Finland is firmly associated with morally correct behavior. Until these days, Finns who gamble are hailed as virtuous, because they make a meaningful contribution to the betterment of Finland.