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Working group: The reform of the Lotteries Act must intensify prevention of gambling problems

Ministry of Social Affairs and Health 8.11.2017 13.00
Press release 161/2017
Working group: The reform of the Lotteries Act must intensify prevention of gambling problems

The focus of gambling policies should be moved more towards prevention of gambling problems. When the second phase of the reform of the Lotteries Act gets underway, more emphasis should be placed on the prevention of problems. A national programme is needed to reinforce gambling policies. The programme should be founded on a Government resolution. These are some of the proposals included in a working group report that was submitted to Annika Saarikko, the Minister of Family Affairs and Social Services on 7 November.

The working group’s main message to decision-makers is that prevention of gambling problems must be intensified in the second phase of the reform of the new Lotteries act that took force in 2017. The working group believes practical proposals should now be made to promote the primary goal of the gambling system, which is to prevent problems caused by gambling.

The preventive approach would also be strengthened in the ownership policy of Veikkaus. In the social welfare and health care reform, both early recognition of problems and provision of treatment services for players with problems should be guaranteed in all provinces.

According to Annika Saarikko, the Minister of Family Affairs and Social Services, debate about the gambling policy and the problems caused by gambling is a good thing. “Gambling problems affect more than 700 000 people in Finland when you include the family members of gamblers.” It is also important that legislation is improved to enable intervention in the harmful side-effects of gambling before they become problems,” says Saarikko.

A national action framework would provide for more robust gambling policy

According to the working group, the ownership policy of Veikkaus could be used to enhance the preventive approach by increasing co-operation between the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, the Ministry of the Interior, the National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) and the Prime Minister's Office, which is responsible for Veikkaus’s ownership policy.

The working group also proposes that a Government resolution and a national action framework to implement it be drafted on gambling policy. The Ministry of Social Affairs and Health would be responsible for preparing and implementing the framework with regard to areas that fall under its scope. These are the monitoring and prevention of and research on social, financial and health problems caused by gambling and the development of treatment.

The working group proposes that prevention, monitoring and treatment of gambling problems, as referred to in the Lotteries act, be enhanced by combining the existing development organisations into a multi-party development and innovation network called the Gambling Problem Centre and by appointing a gambling problem prevention cooperation group to enhance the prevention of problems and carry out public communications. These would support the provinces in organising the prevention and treatment of gambling problems which are the responsibility of the provinces.

Section 52 of the Lotteries act lays down provisions on the prevention and monitoring of gambling problems and the development and improvement of prevention and care. The working group’s proposals on the prevention of gambling problems and organising reconstructive work in Finland would form a basis for evaluating the need to amend the Lotteries act.

The working group was commissioned by the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health and headed by Jorma Niemelä, Adjunct Professor. The working group’s report is entitled Suunnitelma rahapelihaittojen ehkäisyn ja korjaavan työn järjestämiseksi Suomessa (Ministry of Social Affairs and Health report 2017/42, Plan for organising the prevention and treatment of gambling problems in Finland).

Practical ways to help gamblers with problems

Another report commissioned by the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health was drafted by a working group of the THL’s gambling and substance experts. According to the working group, the problems of gamblers could be reduced with obligatory identification and compulsory limits that are set by the gamblers themselves on the sum they can use. Gamblers may also apply for a personal gambling prohibition.

Practical means of preventing problems caused by gambling include measures that affect the availability of gambling. These measures would especially concern slot machines. Their availability could be reduced by restricting the number of gaming locations and their placement. Gambling in places where alcohol is served could also be restricted.

The working group’s report is entitled Sääntelyyn perustuvat rahapelihaittojen ehkäisytoimet ja niiden soveltuvuus Suomen rahapelijärjestelmään (Ministry of Social Affairs and Health Report 2017/43, Regulatory measures to prevent gambling problems and their suitability to the Finnish gambling system).

Further information:

Working group chairperson Jorma Niemelä, Adjunct Professor, tel. +358 400 200 760
Mari Pajula, Senior Specialist, Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, tel. +358 29 516 3040