The Finns justify their gambling laws with charitable giving but are the revenues behind held back by a lack of competition or innovation?
“It’s all in a good cause” is a phrase that I shall ever deem to be an indication of impending doom. Upon hearing it uttered I have a tendency to eye the exits and take a quick mental inventory of my stand-by excuses. It’s not that I mind giving money, mark you, it’s the possibility of being dragged in to some ridiculous activity for which I would be sponsored. Regardless of what bizarre event the do-gooder before me has planned, I’m opting out.
This might seem a tad bah-humbug to you but to my mind this is just sensible practice in light of early indications and the experience of others. It was at school that I sponsored a friend in an effort to raise funds for Mencap (a hugely worthy bunch), the scheme? A parachute jump. My chum broke both legs for his efforts and I still had to pay up, out of moral propriety alone, despite him evidently having failed in the most important aspect of parachutery.
• Revenues given to combat problem gambling
• Private sector could raise more money
• Mobile betting might be easily licensed
It doesn’t matter if the activity is less evidently flawed than throwing young teenage boys out of planes I’m not interested. I will not jog for so many pence a mile, I shall not sit in a bath of beans, won’t shave off my eyebrows, nor take part in any quirky themed football match under any circumstances. That early brush with the curse of charitable activity taught me that “no good deed goes unpunished” isn’t a joke; It’s a hint.
Of course I’ve not always been able to wriggle out of it. There were the runs at school, lengthy afternoons of pointless plodding to raise less money than I could have earned stacking shelves in Tesco for the same amount of time, and later on, I regret to say, a unicycle hockey match that defies adequate description save to say my knee still twinges from time to time as a result, especially if the weather is about to turn bad.
Charity At Any Price?
Obviously my attitude to these charitable events is jaundiced, cynical and distinctly lacking in whatever it is people require to “enter into the spirit of things”. However charity in general is a laudable part of humanity, those who can giving to those who can’t, a universally comprehensible admittance that we are all part of one entity here on this planet and that no one should be allowed to suffer from that that we might relieve them of.
But charity doesn’t justify sponsored walking. Nothing justifies sponsored walking. Likewise one wonders if it can justify an outmoded set of rules and regulations imposed against the spirit of wider socially accepted authorities. The Finnish gambling laws are based on charitable giving, it is the reason for their draconian retention of monopoly and state control, but does giving the money to charity really justify such harshly anti-competitive legislation?
Certainly the EU is in two minds. On the one hand a liberalization of service markets is a keystone of the union itself, on the other it can see that the repeatedly stated aim of reducing problem gambling and minimizing the negative social effects whilst helping those suffering from social ills is hardly something to which one can object without handing easy political ammunition to one’s foes in the morass of Brussels.
Whilst the mitigation of some of gambling’s negative effects is certainly achieved it is arguable that the same level of giving could be achieved by the private sector, who would bring with them innovation and the cost efficiencies of competition. This would free up the large scale capital investment and holdings of the state for other projects without denying the charities any loss of revenue which would be legislated.
Licenses The Way Forward
The Finns might be gambling news of their successes will prevent these arguments being made but with the internet so pervasive and impossible to tame enforcement of bans on sites beyond the official pairing is untenable. Sensibly legislated liberalization would not only prevent people circumventing the laughable prohibitions and taking their gambling Euros elsewhere, but would have a knock on effect in the advertising and marketing businesses and indeed the technical support sphere.
A system put in place with a maturity of thought behind it, based on licenses and regulation of an apt variety (that would include all the charitable giving currently achieved) would force those wishing to enter the market to invest sizable sums to both make consumers aware of their offers and the staff necessary for customer support and technical management. This, allied with the alleviation of capital holding necessities the current system imposes on the government could way indicate a different approach.
Not that the Finns seem particularly inclined to make the change. Those that like to bet on sports in Finland have the stark choice of the official sanctioned state run site run by RAY (Raha-automaattiyhdistys) and it’s smaller cousin PAF (Ålands Penningautomatförening) or use far more professionally curated sites like ComeOn! Sportsbook or Bet365 that simply make their state sponsored competition look dated and old hat.
Finland will be unable to sustain the argument that its gambling laws do good things for charity when the easy of access to other facilities abroad that the internet brings slowly erodes the amount of money that the charity based gambling monopoly of Finland can generate. Pressure upon Finnish attitudes to change may thus not come from gamblers or EU regulators at all, but from the charities who will see their revenues fall if the status quo is not addressed and the system not brought into the 21st century.