Risk free poker

It turns out (fi) that the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health is preparing an update to the Lotteries Act (PDF). A working group published its suggestions (PDF, fi) today. A ban on minors' gambling is apparently on the cards, apparently, as well as a ban on advertising, save for factual information distributed by licensed operators.

The working group also takes aim at foreign online casinos, or "illegal gambling providers", as the ministry calls them. The possibilities of banning money transfers and Internet connections should be examined. In an ingenious solution, the working group mentions the idea that losing players would be entitled to get their money back from non-licensed providers - the hope being that foreign Internet casinos wouldn't accept Finnish customers. I find it difficult to believe that such a blatant end run around EU legislation could succeed, but I'm no legal expert.

Helping people with gambling problems is cited extensively as the rationale for making these changes. I'd buy that as the main motivating factor if the proposals also went after slot machines, the leading cause of gambling addiction in Finland. Since they don't, I'll go with the theory that the ministry is trying to protect and strengthen Finland's Slot Machine Association's (RAY) monopoly on casino table games.

The ministry also ordered an expert report (fi, PDF) from Professor Kalle Määttä. In the report, Määttä makes some questionable claims about the nature of poker. For example, he argues that poker could be considered a game of luck because, even though in the long run good players will win over bad ones, in the short term a beginner can beat a professional. But of course the better player has an edge over worse players in the short term, too, regardless of whether it is enough to overcome the variance inherent in distributing cards randomly.

Määttä also compares online poker to a pyramid scheme, noting that in both many people lose money and relatively few win. That disparity, however, isn't the defining feature of a pyramid scheme. After all, in Lotto, the state-run lottery, a great many lose and very few win; that doesn't mean that it's a pyramid scheme.


egan said...

This stuff really winds me up. More than Alko, because the state is still selling the exact same things to the exact same people, just with a much worse outcome for the victims. It's like if everything Alko sold was laced with barbiturates, or something.

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