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How Technology Has Changed Gambling: The Case of Finland

Sophisticated technological innovations that have been changing our world beyond recognition for the latest forty years or so left its visible mark in the casino industry as well. Seasoned gamblers can tell how much their gambling experience has changed with the advent of the internet. The most obvious change that life-time gamblers felt when they switched online is that they did not need to be physically present while betting or filling in lottery numbers. Before the late 1990s, before the gambling industry went online, gamblers had to talk to a bookie in person to make a bet. They also needed to enter a brick-and-mortar casino to play a roulette or poker.

With the internet, the very nature of gambling has also drastically altered. When poker players sat at the table surrounded by observers curious about the progression of a game, gambling was a highly social experience. Winners were applauded by the crowds, while those who lost were laughed at or pitied. Now online gamblers playing in the comfort of their homes can win or lose millions, and nobody, save a platform itself, will witness the rise or fall of their fortunes.

Even if absence of social interactions during gambling is deplorable, the gambling industry has acquired many exciting features that can fully compensate people for this loss. Indeed, every sphere of the gambling industry has become richer and more rewarding since it moved online. Sports betting over the internet, for example, creates a more profitable experience for gamblers, because they get more promotional offers and receive lower minimum bet sizes with online bookies.

In addition to enhancing existing areas of gambling, the internet has also prepared soil for an entirely new betting species. Take e-sports betting, or as it is called in Finnish, “e sport vedonlyönti”: before the internet this species was unthinkable, since it amalgamates sports betting with video gaming and depends on streaming technology for its existence. Thanks to the internet, the global e-sports market is worth now about 1 billion euros, and professional e-sports teams compete for prizes valued at millions of euros.

E-sports are particularly popular with the Finns. The bi-annual “Assembly” event is now organized in Helsinki, where the Finnish game community demonstrates their game making skills. Even the educational sector has responded to the Finns’ love for e-sports. In 2016, the Ahlman College in Orivesi added a new course to its curriculum that aims to prepare students for a professional career in e-sports. While some gamers rush to buy Sony’s PlayStation 5 in order to enjoy its new features at home, young Finnish people hone their gaming skills in class in the hope of taking their love for video games to the higher, professional level.

The internet has also democratized gambling. There are countries where land-based casinos are outlawed: people cannot play poker, black jack, and slot games or simply visit a casino in Norway. Or they cannot travel to a casino located at a long distance from their native town, even when casinos are legal in their country. Viewed as a civic duty, gambling is encouraged in Finland, but traveling to local brick-and-mortar casinos is not easy for the most Finish citizens. There are only two casinos in Finland, Helsinki Casino and the PAF Casino in Mariehamn, and people living, say, in Oulu would not travel through the whole country to place a wager in them.

Online gambling has given equal betting opportunities to all people in the world, regardless of their physical location. Thus, instead of travelling to Helsinki or Mariehamn, the Finns can bet online both with licensed and unlicensed providers, which offer them poker games, lotteries, sports betting, esports, roulette, scratch cards, and numerous themed slots. The arsenal of these websites is indeed much richer than that of PAF Casino in Mariehamn, which has only 65 slot machines and 3 table games. To make the Finns’ interaction with their content easier, some of the foreign sites translate it to their native language. Bet365, for example, provides its website and corresponding apps in Finnish.

In comparison to land-based casinos, online ones offer more generous rewards. They allow players to play games free of charge, the generosity which land-based casinos never show to their customers, always requiring them to make initial deposits. Virtual casinos also give large welcome bonuses designed for new-comers. Welcome bonuses are not tied to a specific game but can be used to play any game available on a website. There are also special deals offered by virtual casinos. With their help, gamblers can boost their bankroll and play longer. Loyal customers receive loyalty schemes, exclusive offers, and numerous bonuses.

As technology continues developing, the gambling industry is expected to become even more sophisticated, alluring, and profitable. Willing to attract more customers, it will surely make use of any technological novelty that will appear in the future.

This article does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the editors or management of EconoTimes.

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