Deal with US Provider Expands Finnish Lottery's Interactive Gambling Portfolio

29 September 2004

California-based TV and Internet game company Milestone Entertainment will develop a portfolio of games for Finnish National State Lottery Veikkaus' OnNet Internet platform, mobile phones and television. The two groups have signed a one-year contract with an option for another four years.

The OnNet gaming system enables registered players to place in-game bets, including propositions such as "Which team is going to score next?" and "How may goals will be scored during the next period?" The live betting component enables the administrator to open and close new betting targets in real time, set the odds and control the game.

In the pilot setting, the Milestone system will target consumers using text messages or a graphical user interface via mobile phones. Players using smart phones equipped with the Series 60 system (such as Nokia's 3650 and 7650 models) can download an easy-to-use colorful graphical user interface for placing bets. Players with ordinary mobile phones can place bets via text messages.

The outcome is communicated to the players in real time after the betting target is closed and the result is known. Each player receives a personal message with match results as well as his personal betting results.

Payments are debited from--and prizes credited to--the player's OnNet account in real time.

OnNet will also eventually enable fast-paced betting using the Internet, interactive digital television and any telephone using either VRU (voice response unit) or speech command.

"Now that we have successfully adapted our existing portfolio of lottery games for our OnNet Internet platform, we need to begin developing innovative, patented lottery game concepts for use in all media--from television to mobile phones and Internet," Veikkaus Development Director Risto Rautee explained.

Veikkaus' turnover in 2003 was nearly 1.2 billion euros, compared to 1.1 billion euros in 2002, and continued growth could depend on the interpretation of the 2003 Gambelli ruling (giving E.U. member the criteria for legally blocking foreign gaming operators) from the European Court of Justice

"In our point of view," Nissi explained, "the Gambelli case does not mean that we should stop all our product development or marketing either. We operate strictly according to the rules our license from the Finnish government defines and values widely accepted in the Finnish society."

It is illegal to operate gambling and lottery services in Finland for private purposes; only the government can permit a license, and only one license is valid at a time for each type of "e-gaming." Three organizations hold such licenses: The National Lottery of Finland (Oy Veikkaus Ab), which is totally owned by the state, may operate lotteries. Fintoto Oy, which is owned by the central organization of trotting and horse breeding in Finland (Suomen Hippos ry), has exclusive rights to organize toto games. Casinos are operated by Rahaautomaattiyhdistys (the Slot Machine Association), which is a public company.

The Finnish charitable foundations last month started a new help line, called "Peluuri," to assist problem gamblers. The service, which is also available to family members of gambling addicts, is funded by the three licensed operators.

Tapio Jaakkola, who heads Peluuri, said that 25,000 to 65,000 Finns are compulsive gamblers (defined as spending 15 percent or more of their net incomes on games of chance). Five to six thousand Finns a year enter rehabilitation programs due to gambling addiction. Finland has 5.2 million inhabitants.

Rob van der Gaast has a background in sports journalism. He worked for over seven years as the head of sports for Dutch National Radio and has developed new concepts for the TV and the gambling industry. Now he operates from Istanbul as an independent gambling research analyst. He specializes in European gambling matters and in privatizations of gambling operators. Rob has contributed to IGN since Jul 09, 2001.