Many European countries are lifting the lockdown. As the calendar marked the beginning of summer, European governments started relaxing the quarantine restrictions amidst rumors that Phase II Trial for Chinese Covid-19 Vaccine has successfully been completed and that its mass production will begin soon. From Monday, Britons are permitted to meet in groups of up to six people outside and enjoy warmer weather in parks and gardens. Primary school children went back to schools. Italians resumed their exercises in gyms, swimming pools, and sport centers. In several days, they will fly abroad and will begin to catch up on movies and plays in cinemas and theatres. The Netherlands reopened restaurants on Monday and allowed 30 diners to gather at the table together. In less than a month, it plans to let people enter gyms, spas, and casinos.

Finnish citizens are now free to throw parties outdoors for fifty people and go to libraries, theatres, swimming pools, and fitness clubs. Domestic tourism within Finland will also be allowed in the near future. Many sport teams, including the Finnish Football League, will soon resume their training. The Finnish sports minister even said that the government’s limit of fifty people could be broken to enable people to enjoy sporting events. Fans can come to cheer for their teams in larger crowds than fifty people, provided they maintain the required safety distance and sanitize their hands. Those sport lovers who second the doctors’ opinion that Finland will not succeed in containing the spread of coronavirus under the new eased measures can watch matches online. Or, if they prefer betting on the outcome of these matches, they can wager at any of the Finnish online casinos, referred to by Finns as “nettikasinot.”

Unfortunately, online casinos are the only type of casinos available to Finnish players at the moment. When the coronavirus spread to Finland in March, Veikkaus, the Finnish national gambling operator, shut down all gaming sites across the country and all slot machines in supermarkets, kiosks, and gas stations. Casino Helsinki, Pelaamot, and Feel Vegas have been deserted for more than two months as a result. Nor have Finns played lotteries since March, though they could buy at dealerships scratch cards and some coupon games. Raffle draws have been suspended and, most probably, will remain on hold till September. Finnish gamblers, therefore, have to brace themselves for a month or two without brick-and-mortar casinos. For the Finnish government has not announced yet when it plans to follow the brave example of American, Austrian, and Botswanan casinos and open Finnish gambling premises. Warned by doctors that, with the quarantine rules eased, the number of infected people may increase by 40 percent in several weeks, Veikkaus is meanwhile postponing the reopening of brick-and-mortar casinos in the country.

The gambling industries in Finland and other countries may be losing billions in revenues. Analysts estimate that the lockdown will bring gambling revenues in North Americas down by 9.2 percent. Europe is predicted to decline by 22.8 percent. Asia will lose as much. Yet the decline of the global gambling industry does not mean that gamblers are having less fun and reaping smaller profits during the pandemic. Unlike their land-based counterparts, digital casinos are blossoming in the time of coronavirus, predicted to surge by 16.7 percent in 2020.  More and more players have been relocating online. In Finland, Veikkaus opened 3,000 new accounts during the last two months.

Apart from Veikkaus websites, which are fully licensed and secure, Finnish people have been using services of unlicensed foreign operators which offer a wide range of casino games, slot machines, bingo, online poker, and sports betting. Among foreign providers popular with Finns are Bet365, Betfair, 888sport, or Betway. Their websites, some of which are even translated into Finnish language, prove to be extremely useful to gamblers disallowed now to visit real-world casinos.

Before the outbreak of the virus, Veikkaus planned to reconsider its attitude to unlicensed foreign gambling websites. The problem is that, though officially foreign digital casinos are outlawed in Finland, Finnish gamblers can easily transfer money to them any time they want. There is no law in the country that deems wagering on unlicensed websites a criminal offence. Powerless to lure gamblers away from foreign online casinos, Veikkaus can only forbid their providers to advertise their services in Finland. Yet at the beginning of the year, the government began to discuss the possibility of IP-blocking gambling websites and restricting monetary transfers to them from Finnish players.

When coronavirus reached Finland, Veikkaus had to deal with quarantine measures, putting the problem of unlicensed foreign operators aside for the time being. It is hard to predict whether Veikkaus will continue its campaign against foreign online casinos when quarantine restrictions are totally lifted. It is also unclear at present whether the casino agency will start removing slot machines from supermarkets, gas stations, and restaurants, as it promised to do before the pandemic. Covid-19 has changed people’s everyday reality so drastically that, perhaps, the Act on Lotteries, which the Finnish government wants to revise, will remain in the form it is now for some years to come.