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Finnish gambling operator Veikkaus has said that the closure of slot machines and gaming arcades for approximately four months to combat the spread of COVID-19 has led to financial decreases in its latest trading update.

Gross gaming revenue for the year dropped 25.5 per cent to €1.26bn, with the group estimating that restrictions related to the pandemic reduced GGR by more than €300m in 2020. Profit was €680.2m, a 32.6 per cent year-on-year drop.

Of that GGR figure, 56.6 per cent came from the points of sales of the retail network, whereas 43.4 per cent, an 11.6 per cent uptick, came from the digital channel. 

This increase in the share of the digital channel, says Veikkaus, was especially due to a drop in the share of point-of-sales gaming, due to the aforementioned slot machines closures for a “major part of the year”.

The operator also updates sports interruptions “caused a drastic drop in the availability of betting,” with the year also changing plans to launch new games and in revising existing ones.

Furthermore, Veikkaus also reports that the total Finnish gambling market amounted to €1.58bn, a 21 per cent drop in GGR, with Veikkaus’ share sitting at 80 per cent. The operator’s total share of the digital market was 63 per cent.

The average prevalence of gambling problems in the two surveys commissioned from the Taloustutkimus market research firm was at 2.5 per cent, the lowest since these commenced in 2017.

“We had to take major, even difficult, decisions, on a tight schedule at Veikkaus due to the coronavirus epidemic in 2020, in order to protect the health of our staff, customers, and retailers,” commented Regina Sippel, Veikkaus’ CFO

“To Veikkaus, just as to many other companies, the year of the coronavirus was challenging; however, it was also a year of positive, remarkable solutions that have enabled the building of a more responsible gaming environment.”

One of Veikkaus’ major actions for responsibility during the year is a revolution in the number of slot machines in its retail network, with the firm doing so by approximately 8,000, a 40 per cent drop from the previous year.

Representing a quicker than previously anticipated drop, as a result, the current total number of slot machines in stores, kiosks, restaurants, and service stations is in the region of 10,500 slot machines.

Moreover, the group also began preparing for compulsory authentication on the slot machines last year, and hopes to have this in place by the end of 2023. 

“It has been estimated that the compulsory authentication, together with the gambling control tools, will cut the players’ losses – and at the same time reduce the revenue to society – by ca. 300 million annually, as compared with the revenue of the pre-coronavirus year 2019,” Sippel added.