Government support for a monopoly may have serious consequences for media and advertising companies
Finland's government may need to batten down the hatches for an imminent media and advertising storm generated by its attempts to establish an online poker monopoly.
The Finns started manoeuvring on the issue at the beginning of 2010, when the government released its plan to open a state-run internet poker room along the lines of the lucrative Svenska Spel and Danske Spil models, now the subject of EC-prompted liberalisation.
Playtech scored a coup in May this year in winning the contract for the software and technology chosen to power the new business, CardPlayer Magazine reported recently.
The magazine's Finnish representative, Timo Korppi, flagged areas of conflict in the government initiative, noting that many media companies in the Nordic country are deeply concerned at the prospect of commercial competition being stifled.
Korppi observed in the article that parliament "rubberstamped" the new gambling law late in June this year, doing so without the benefit of a serious parliamentary debate on the issue, probably because it wanted to push the legalization through in order to secure market positioning for its chosen vehicle, RAY's Ray.fi, due to launch in the northern autumn this year.
“In practical terms [foreign] online poker and casino businesses are now banned from advertising or promoting their services in media published or aired in Finland by locally owned companies," Korppi wrote in the August 10 edition of CardPlayer.
CardPlayer itself should not be impacted – its associated titles, Pokeri, CardPlayer Finland and PokerMagazine are printed and published from another EU country in the region, Estonia, before being imported into Finland as foreign publications, thus avoiding the media restrictions enshrined in the new gaming law.
Korppi notes that the mainstream media in Finland is outraged by the government moves, which it sees as unfair, against the spirit of free speech and devised solely to serve the needs of the newly introduced gambling monopoly.