The Finnish Casino Industry During Covid-19: A Manual for Survival

The most urgent expectations everyone has right now is for the end of the lockdown. Our regular life has been on hold for so long that any possible change in the world’s immobility arouses enthusiasm and attracts lively attention in the media. What stirred up people’s positive emotions at the end of April is Matt Maddox’s plan to open Wynn Resorts (WYNN) in Nevada to the public. The corporation’s CEO asked the government to permit the reopening of casinos and, in so doing, boosted investors’ spirits, long depressed by the fall of stocks in the gambling industry. Like companies belonging to airline, tourism, chemical, hotels, motels, and retail sectors, the casino industry had been suffering losses for several months. The news from markets in April were paradigmatic of the industry’s general decline. On Monday, April 20, Las Vegas Sands tumbled 8.25 percent; Wynn Resorts dropped 6.59 percent; and Red Rock Resorts sank 5.12 percent.

Opening of casinos will arrest the gambling industry’s downward movement, and the sooner gamblers return to poker tables and slot machines, the lesser damage casinos will suffer. Analysts foresee that, despite their losses, casinos will be able to rebound. Just as during the 2008 crash, there were stocks that went up, so there will be stocks that will get out of Coronavirus unscathed. For now, every positive prognosis is able to bring casino stocks higher. Last Thursday, they rallied after the executives of Las Vegas Sands had predicted a speedy rebound in gambling among the company’s premises in Asia. Asians are more disciplined and are used to working in face masks, the executives said, and, therefore, they will easily accommodate themselves to gambling under the new rules of social distancing. As soon as the executives voiced their optimism, casino shares surged. Las Vegas Sands jumped 12%; Wynn Resorts climbed 8.6%; Melco Resorts & Entertainment rose 5.9%.

Investors think that casinos across America can be reopened on the same conditions on which they are reopened in Asia. Gamblers will be allowed to enter land-based casinos in small groups after their temperature has been checked. Players and employees will also be required to wear facial masks and gloves and keep some distancing from each other. Casino operators in other countries, however, rely on different measures for the recovery of their gambling sector. Thus, in Finland, Veikkaus, the national gambling agency, said that the Finnish casino industry would survive despite the lockdown, because all Finnish gambling websites remained active and gave valuable opportunities to gamblers placing bets from their homes. Although every land-based casino, or as Finns call it, “kasino,” is closed down, Veikkaus still offers some sports betting to its customers. The company also continues to sell scratch cards, coupon games, and betting games.

Digital casinos are indeed one of the strongest assets of the Finnish gambling industry. Always enthusiastic about gambling, Finns have been wagering more online lately than in land-based casinos. Statistics reveal that Veikkaus online casino attracts over 700,000 players a week. In Q1 2018, Veikkaus reported a 10 percent growth in virtual gaming. Last year, the Q3 report showed a profit of 762.2 million euros. More than 42.9 percent of this turnover came from online casinos. Now, when people are forced to be indoors because of Coronavirus, unable to gamble in Casino Helsinki or the PAF Casino in Mariehamn, the turnover from online gambling might even be larger. It is indeed predicted that during the lockdown, more people will turn to online wagering. Some of them, deprived of their usual daily occupations, will begin to gamble out of curiosity and boredom. Those people who were laid off and are now in financial dire straits might gamble to earn an income.

Gambling online in Finland is safe, since the Finnish government is disconcerted with people’s interest in foreign casino platforms and does its best to provide secure gambling on Veikkaus digital casinos. According to the 2018 report, Finns gambled more than 286 million euros on foreign gambling websites. This was a substantial loss in revenue for the country. To lure Finns away from foreign gambling operators, the government takes necessary measures to protect players’ data on local websites. Players must be registered to start playing; they must have a Finnish bank account, a Finnish security number, and a permanent address in mainland Finland. They are required to set a daily and monthly loss limit before wagering.  As Veikkaus points out, unlicensed foreign casino operators are not so secure and might get players in trouble.

Another strategy that Veikkaus employs to draw Finns’ attention away from foreign unlicensed websites is investing in new online casino games. Games on Finnish local websites must be as technologically innovative and sophisticated as they are in other countries. The Finnish press reported that Veikkaus had entered an agreement with several international online casino platforms. This April, the Finnish betting agency made a deal with Yggdrasil Gaming, one of the largest brands in the iGaming business. According to the agreement between the two sides, Yggdrasil will give Veikkaus such popular games as Penguin City, Wolf Hunters, and Hanzo’s Dojo. It will also provide Finnish players with the Vikings trilogy, Jokerizer, and Winter Berries. All these games will fully comply with the regulatory requirements in Finland.

The deal with Yggdrasil Gaming bodes well for the Finnish online gambling industry. Even though Coronavirus is not conducive to its growth, the gaming sector will withstand the pandemic due to the popularity of Veikkaus online casinos. Even locked in their houses, Finns can demonstrate their support of the country by playing online. With their usual patriotism, they can bring the Finnish gaming industry to prosperity even in 2020.

Disclosure: None.