Charitable Online Gaming Takes the Stage in Finland

17 January 2000
If all goes as planned, Finnish residents will soon have access to legalized online sports betting, courtesy of a charitable gaming and lottery association based off the southwest coast of Finland in the Aland Islands.

PAF (which stands for Ålands enningautomatförening, and directly translated means "The Åland Islands' Slot Machine Association") made its Internet sports betting service available at exclusively to Aland Island residents as a commercial testing site December 3, 1999. A full-scale launch for mainland Finland is scheduled for mid-March 2000

PAF is an association of Aland Island non-profit organizations that generate social welfare funds by offering gaming entertainment to the public. It operates under the supervision of the Aland government and donates all profits to charity. Since its inception in 1967, the association has contributed nearly 400 MFIM to charity (roughly, $68 million in U.S. dollars). Taxation is five percent of turnover for betting.

By offering online wagering, PAF faces an unusual regulatory situation in Finland. "The Aland Island has regional autonomy within Finland, with its own legislative assembly," PAF Business Manager Patrik Hellma explained. "This means that Aland has the right to make its own laws concerning certain matters, such as gaming. However, in most European countries, especially in Scandinavia, there are state-owned companies that are monopolies which have the sole right to offer gaming.

"In Finland there is a company called Viekkaus ( that offers lottery and betting. But, the Internet market is a global market with limited or no geographical restrictions, and Aland is also in Finland. So, we think that we have the right to offer these games to Finns, while our game server is situated on the Aland Island."

Due to legal restrictions, the site is currently available only to Finnish bank account holders, Hellman said. He also pointed out that the Finnish bank system is very advanced, and offers Internet banking.

"From our gaming site, you are able to transfer money directly from your bank account to your gaming account, which we will provide every registered player with," he explained. "For this same reason we do not need to take credit cards."

PAF might eventually open its virtual doors to other countries around the globe. In that case, Hellman says, they might accept credit cards. Until they can accept credit card payments, however, PAF is unable to open its games to other countries, he said.

"But, our present system with bank accounts is absolutely the best here in Finland, while almost everyone has an Internet connection, and an Internet bank account. And, nobody has to place wagers on credit," he explained.

For now PAF Online is available only in Swedish (the second official language in Finland), although a Finnish site is expected to be ready within the next few weeks. And English version will be constructed in the future as well.

While the current offering is only for sports wagering, casino and lottery games are in the works. "When we offer casino games, we will start with blackjack, keno, roulette, video poker and wheel bandit," Hellman said. "Later, we hope to offer 3-D games and a chat site. The players will have to open an account when they register, to which they transfer money. When they later play on the casino or lottery, they will be provided with a 'casino wallet' to where they can transfer money from their gaming account. The player can, whenever he wants, transfer money back to his bank account."

The site offers fixed odds wagering on NHL and EHL hockey, skiing, ski jumping, boxing and several other Finnish and Swedish sports. Minimum wagers are 10 FIM (about $1.50) and the maximum amount allowed for wagers is 1,000 FIM (about $170.) The player can transfer money back to his or her account at any time, and all wagers take place in real time.

When the site makes the full scale launch in Finland, it will offer commission to sports associations when their members register and wager on the site.

The software for was developed by European Game & Entertainment Technology (EGET Ltd. Ab).

Vicky Nolan joined the IGN staff in October 1999. She's best known for inventing fire, the wheel and swiss cheese. She can be reached at