On the first day of summer, on Monday, Finland is going to loosen Coronavirus restrictions, starting a limited reopening of restaurants and coffee shops. Confined to take away food for several months, Finns will again gather at the tables in public eating places. They will be allowed to flock together in larger companies, since social distancing rules will be slackened as well. Fifty will be a new Dunbar’s number in the post-quarantine world. Finnish outdoor sports are also given a green light to start their seasons from the first of June, and the football league is expected to invite viewers to its matches within three weeks. Foreign Minister has asked the Finnish government to clarify its stand on foreign travel by the 3rd of June. It well may be that Finnair airplanes, too, will be seen sailing in the sky any time soon. To crown the whole, Finnish land-based casinos might also welcome their customers to resume wagering inside their premises.
There is no doubt that reopening of Casino Helsinki and the PAF Casino in Mariehamn will be met with great enthusiasm. When casinos opened again in Louisiana and Mississippi, gamblers drove thousands of miles and waited in lines for hours to place their first bet during the coronavirus pandemic. Finns who are considered one of the most avid gamblers in Europe will surely rush to resume their gambling activities with equal zeal. Although more Finnish gamblers turned to Veikkaus’s online services during the lockdown, trying to generate a passive income on virtual slot machines or roulettes, they will certainly be glad to breathe in again the vibrant atmosphere of a real world casino shut down for more than two months.
Concerned with people’s health, Veikkaus, the Finnish national gambling operator, took drastic measures in March and closed all gaming sites and slot machines in supermarkets, gas stations, restaurants, and kiosks. Casino Helsinki, Feel Vegas, and Pelaamot were also emptied of gamblers and staff. Various customer events that Veikkaus is wont to organize in casinos were cancelled in March and have not been held since then. Lottery draws were likewise suspended. The company tried to cheer Finns up by promising to continue selling coupon games and scratch cards at dealerships, but it was clear that these efforts were insufficient to replace the temporary loss of land-based casinos and ubiquitous slot machines. Used to gambling every week, Finnish players had no choice but to resort to online gambling, registering with the best online casinos, or, as they call them in Finnish, “parhaat nettikasinot.” Veikkaus took pains to reassure its customers that games would run without interruptions on its online network and apps.
While on lockdown, Finnish gamblers could enjoy not only local online casinos but also numerous foreign gambling websites, many of which even offer their services in Finnish language. Now, it must be said with regard to foreign casino operators in Finland that the government’s attitude to them is far from definite. Foreign unlicensed casinos are outlawed in Finland. At the same time, however, there is no law in the country that forbids Finnish citizens to make monetary transactions to them. Nor can the Finnish government ban foreign unlicensed digital casinos, as rulers of other countries would undoubtedly do. Therefore, Finnish gamblers in quarantine benefitted not only from Veikkaus’s online services but also from such foreign providers as Bet365, Betfair, 888sport, or Betway, among others. On each of these websites, Finns were invited to enjoy sports betting, online poker, casino games, slots, and bingo.
Several changes were introduced by the Finnish government, while its citizens were occupied with gambling in the confinements of their homes. Monthly and weekly loss limit for Veikkaus’s online casinos was significantly reduced in order to help gamblers out in the difficult circumstances of the coronavirus pandemic. According to the issued decree, the monthly loss limit for online games was slashed from €2,000 to €500. The maximum daily loss per player was halved from €1,000 to €500, which meant that if players lost the maximum in a day, they would be unable to wager for the rest of the month. These changes applied to online slots, online bingo, and all table games save poker. The introduced limits will provisionally be in force until the 30th of September.
From the 4th of May, Veikkaus also put raffle draws on hold. The draws will be held only when suspension is lifted, though the company said it would continue selling raffle tickets to Finnish players during the suspension period. Taken to keep people healthy and financially stable during the quarantine, these emergency measures will certainly affect the revenue of the Finnish gambling industry and negatively so. The latest statistics reveal that so far, its revenue has declined by more than 40 percent, and analysts expect it to dive still deeper. They only hope that if casinos are reopened in the nearest future, returning gamblers will arrest the industry’s rapid decline.
Finns are looking forward to coming back to restaurants, coffee shops, football stadiums, and casinos. Doctors, however, are less excited about the end of the lockdown, predicting an increase of infections by at least 40 percent in several weeks. It is desirable that their predictions do not come true and that the world returns to the pre-quarantine life without additional losses.