Ireland is ranked the fifth among the most enthusiastically gambling countries, preceded only by India, the United Kingdom, Australia, and China. Its gambling industry annually generates €100 million in taxes for the government. The annual value of the Irish gambling market is between 6 billion and 8 billion euros. More than 70 percent of Irish people, of all ages, gamble regularly, playing bingo and slots, betting on horseracing, and buying scratch cards. Their love for gambling is often attributed to so-called luck of the Irish. Irish people are so sure of their ability to strike gold, thanks to their ancestors’ success during the gold and silver rush years in the 19th century, that they never miss an opportunity to try their luck in a game of chance. Their Irish luck is always expected to be on their side, whatever game they play for money. This belief in luck of the Irish is so pervasive that casino operators even create games centered on the Irish theme. By playing these Irish inspired casino games, gamblers, even if they are not of the Irish descent, can enjoy a stroke of luck.
Whether Finnish players believe in luck of the Irish and play on Irish-themed slot machines or not, they apply themselves to gambling with equal gusto. On the list of the biggest gaming countries, Finland comes right after Ireland. On average, Irish and Finnish adult gamblers leave an equal amount of money in casinos: about 500 euro per person a year. Together, Finns annually spend more than 2.2 billion on gambling, playing either in their land-based casinos or virtual casinos, many of which appear on the list compiled by nettikasinot.com. In these casinos, gamblers are offered a large variety of games: roulette, blackjack, poker, table games, and baccarat. There is also a rich choice of themed slot machines both in land-based casinos and on gambling websites. Unlike Irish gamblers who appear to favor Irish inspired casino games – Irish Riches, Lucky Leprechaun, and Irish Eyes, Finns are attracted to slots featuring creatures from Norse mythology or legendary goldsmiths from folk stories, such as North Storm and Kulta-Jaska, for example.
Their dissimilar tastes in slot machines are not the only difference in the experience of Irish and Finnish gamblers. Although both nations gamble with abandon, they have different conditions to do so. Finland has fewer brick-and-mortar casinos on its territory. The major casino in Finland – Casino Helsinki – is located in the country’s capital and attracts the largest number of gamblers, since another casino at the Arkipelag Hotel & Casino in Mariehamn is considered insufficiently large and well-equipped by experienced players. The PAF casino in Aland Islands offers people only 23 table and poker games and only 80 gaming machines. Casino Helsinki, by contrast, includes as many as 300 slot machines and 32 live gaming tables. There are also casinos in Tampere and numerous “Feel Vegas” slot halls mushrooming in Finland. Gamblers play table games in these slot halls at lower prices than in brick-and-mortar casinos.
Irish punters are more spoilt than Finns. They can visit 25 land-based casinos located in Dublin, Limerick, Cork, Clondalkin, and Dundalk. These casinos boast around 70 table games, almost 1000 slot machine games, and 40 poker tables. The most popular among these casinos are the Fitzwilliam Casino and Card Club, Fitzpatrick’s Casino, the Sporting Emporium, Playland Casino, D1 Club, Amusement City, Ned Kellys, Colossus, Macau Sporting Club, Carlton Casino Club, Claudes Casino, Westbury Casino, Caesars Palace Casino, and the Bank Casino. The Fitzwilliam Casino and Card Club is rated the best by Irish players, because it has a wide range of games, such as blackjack, roulette, and punto banco, and because it organizes poker tournaments.
Equally large in Ireland is a choice of virtual casinos. According to the 2015 amendment in the Irish gambling law, all gambling websites should obtain an Irish gambling license to offer their services to the public. This license is available for a fee and must be renewed every two years. Those casino operators who fail to renew their gaming licenses might face severe punishment – either large fines or imprisonment. Depending on services given to players, casino providers in Ireland should receive licenses either for retail bookmakers or betting exchanges, or remote betting services. Among casino operators active in the country are Slot Heaven, Vegas Hero, Genesis Casino, 888casino, Magic Red Casino, and Dream Vegas.
Unlike Ireland, Finland does not welcome license-based foreign casinos to the country. There are only local digital casinos, run by the PAF in the Aland Province and by the RAY in the Finnish mainland. These licensed local casinos are highly secure, vigilantly protecting gamblers’ data from infringement. Apart from these gambling websites, Finns can enjoy gambling with foreign unlicensed operators who are officially outlawed in the country but not banned. Because there is no law in Finland that categorizes wagering with unlicensed websites as a criminal offense, Finnish players can freely transmit money to foreign operators, though they do this, as the Finnish government always emphasizes, at their own risk.
The Finnish government’s ambiguous attitude to foreign digital casinos makes clear that changes must be made in its Lotteries Act. Some people suggest that the government should IP-block foreign gambling websites and restrict money transfers to them from Finnish players. Others object to such drastic measures and maintain that, on the contrary, Finland should emulate Sweden and Ireland and legalize foreign operators by issuing gaming licenses to them. The Act on Lotteries is being revised in Finland at present, but it is still unclear in what direction a pendulum will swing and how these revisions will bode for the future development of the Finnish gambling industry.