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New report provides an overview of the control of harm caused by slot machine games

Ministry of Social Affairs and Health
23.10.2020 10.03 | Published in English on 26.10.2020 at 12.10
Press release 246/2020

The harm caused by slot machine operations can be most effectively mitigated by taking simultaneous account of all the factors that affect outcomes. These include the characteristics and features of individual slot machine games, game restrictions and opportunities for self-exclusion, the availability and accessibility of individual games and the marketing of slot machine games.

This is the conclusion drawn by the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health’s expert working group in the new report, which policymakers can utilise to prevent and mitigate the social, health-related and financial harm caused by gambling. 

Comprehensive control of harm is the most effective approach

According to the assessment group, efforts to control the harm caused by slot machine games should be tailored to a greater degree, taking into account different gambling environments and distribution channels.

The assessment group does not consider it relevant to resolve the future of the model based on the placement of slot machine games in public areas in isolation of the other factors that affect risk potential. Efforts to mitigate harm can be enhanced by either removing slot machines placed in public areas from the market entirely or by developing the current model to more effectively mitigate harm. 

In contrast, the report asserts that moving existing slot machines to existing arcades or arcades to be established specifically for this purpose is not a viable option.

The assessment group considers it important to more systematically mobilise the possibilities of the statutory monopoly system for the prevention
and mitigation of harm in all areas associated with the control of harm. 

At the same time, an effort should be made to reduce the availability of games that fall outside of the statutory monopoly system. This is important because these games are unaffected by regulatory measures targeted at the running of gambling operations. 

As its conclusion, the assessment group sates that the marketing of slot machine games should be completely abolished. Additionally, Veikkaus should be obligated to inform players of the particularly harmful nature of slot machine games.

Other countries provide useful lessons in regard to the control of harm

Part II of the report includes a review of prior research on the control of harm caused by gambling and recounts experiences from six other countries besides Finland where slot machines are also placed in public areas. The countries included in the comparison are Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Poland, Italy and the United Kingdom.

Based on the report, slot machine games are particularly harmful in large numbers, when placed in easily accessible areas and when they have features that encourage players to continue playing.  

When implemented correctly, game restrictions can effectively mitigate the harm caused by gambling. While requiring players to identify themselves is not a control method in and of itself, it can effectively support efforts to control gambling by keeping track of gaming bans and providing the player with feedback. In Finland, expanding mandatory identification will increase opportunities to implement comprehensive game restrictions, gaming bans and tools for controlling gambling. 

In Norway, mandatory identification already makes it possible to impose restrictions on all of the games operated by the state monopoly. Sweden and Denmark, on the other hand, have centralised gaming ban registers that encompass all slot machine game locations and providers. 

In Finland, both the playing of slot machine games and gambling in general are more prevalent than in any of the other countries included in the comparison by a notable margin. Of all the countries included in the comparison, Finland had the second-highest number of slot machines per capita and the highest availability of slot machines in everyday areas.

The preparation of the report was directed by a working group appointed by the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health that is tasked with assessing the harm and risk potential related to the running of gambling operations. Part II of the report, entitled ‘Rahapeliautomaatteja ja automaattipelejä koskeva selvitys’ (‘Report concerning slot machines and slot machine games’) was written by researchers Tuulia Lerkkanen and Virve Marionneau from the University of Helsinki.

The work of the group for the assessment of the harm and risk potential related to the running of gambling operations is part of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health’s responsibility to monitor and research the social, economic and health-related harm caused by the running of gambling operations and to develop the prevention and treatment thereof, pursuant to section 52 of the Lotteries Act (1047/2001). As an expert body, the assessment group examines the running of gambling operations and issues related proposals and recommendations.

Inquiries:

Senior Specialist Mari Pajula, tel. +358 (0)295 163 040 [email protected] (report conclusions)
Postdoctoral Researcher Virve Marionneau, University of Helsinki, tel. +358 (0)29 4123 768, [email protected] (assessment part of the report, country comparison)    
Research Director Matilda Hellman, University of Helsinki, +358 (0)407600713, [email protected]

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