National Market Protectionist Gambling Policies in the European Union: The Finnish Gambling Monopoly Merger as a Case in Point
A rapidly growing globalized and digitalized gambling industry has compelled European jurisdictions to take action in order to secure some level of gambling market control, to secure public funds from gambling, and to protect citizens from gambling-related harm. This study concerns the market protectionist endeavour to merge three gambling operators into one state-owned monopoly in Finland in 2017. The justification of the systemic change is analysed in key policy documents and media reporting that discerns the political narratives that nudged the monopoly merger from the idea stage to its completion. Within the narratives, the merger is presented as necessary due to the threats of market intrusion by foreign gambling operators and the likelihood of an internal system implosion framed by European Union (EU) law. The worries expressed in the studied materials plug into a general zeitgeist of globalization. The justifications of the systemic change presuppose the inevitable determination of the change and an innate and constant human desire to gamble. Critical views on the merger were introduced in the media at a late stage, stressing the role of the media as a facilitator and manufacturer of political consent. The study demonstrates how market protectionist justifications can, through the maintenance of a regulated gambling market, assure preservation of national public funds obtained from gambling in the EU. The official gambling policy objective of securing public health played a secondary role in the process.
La croissance fulgurante de l’industrie du jeu, mondialisée et numérisée, a incité les autorités européennes à prendre des mesures afin d’assurer un certain contrôle sur ce marché, de garantir les fonds publics provenant du jeu et de protéger les citoyens des dommages liés au jeu. Cette étude porte sur la tentative protectionniste de la Finlande de fusionner trois exploitants de jeux d’argent en un monopole d’État en 2017. On analyse les raisons justifiant le changement systémique dans des documents politiques clés et des reportages dans les médias en mettant en évidence le contenu narratif politique qui a conduit à la fusion du monopole, depuis la naissance de l’idée jusqu’à sa concrétisation. Dans ce contenu narratif, la fusion est présentée comme une nécessité en raison des menaces d’intrusion par des exploitants de jeux étrangers et la probabilité d’une implosion du système interne encadré par le droit de l’UE. Les inquiétudes exprimées dans les documents analysés cadrent avec une tendance généralisée à l’égard de la mondialisation. Les fondements qui sous-tendent ce changement systémique présupposent l’inévitabilité du changement et un désir inné et constant de jouer chez l’être humain. Les points de vue critiques sur la fusion sont présentés tardivement dans les médias, ce qui confirme le rôle des médias comme facilitateur et créateur de consentement politique. L’étude montre que les justifications protectionnistes du marché peuvent, par le maintien d’une réglementation du marché des jeux, garantir l’apport de fonds publics nationaux générés par les jeux de hasard dans l’UE. L’objectif officiel de la politique en matière de jeu visant à protéger la santé publique a joué un rôle de second plan dans le processus.
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