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Betsson has transferred its online gambling brands to a new holding company after Finland’s National Police Board (NPB) placed the business on its payment blocking list.

For customers in the European Union, excluding Sweden and Ireland, the operator’s gaming services are now operated by Malta Gaming Authority (MGA)-licensed entity Rizk Nordic Limited.

The full text, now visible on Betsson’s website, states:

“For customers residing in the European Union (excluding customers residing in Sweden and sportsbook customers residing in Ireland), the operator of this website is Rizk Nordic Limited, company registration number C101569, having its registered address at Betsson Experience Centre, Ta’ Xbiex Seafront, Ta’ Xbiex, XBX1027, Malta. Rizk Nordic Limited is licensed and regulated by the Malta Gaming Authority under licence MGA/B2C/959/2022 issued on the 7th November 2022.”

Previously, the operator listed the licensee as BML Group. Legal sources have suggested the switch in holding company is designed to circumvent the Finnish police’s 29 February payment blocking order.

This saw the NPB place Betsson and 13 named brands on its payments blocking list, which requires all banks, payment service providers and crypto entities to block all payments from Finland to the blacklisted business.

According to the legal expert, Finland’s blocking law applies specifically to the holding licensee, as opposed to the individual brands, meaning the operator can outmanouvre the payment blocking order.

“BML Group Ltd is fully compliant with the prohibition order of the NPB and does not have an customer offering that is targeting Finland,” a Betsson spokesperson told NEXT.io.

“BML Group Ltd welcomes the plans by the Finnish government to introduce a competitive licensing system, which has the potential to increase both player protection and market efficiency by introducing fair competition among operators, improve the player experience and better meet player demands and preferences in the Finnish market.

“BML Group Ltd will be appealing the ruling by the Administrative Court of Finland as well as the blacklisting by the NPD to the Supreme Court in Finland. Therefore, we have no further comments at this stage.”

Betsson to appeal to Supreme Court

The NPB placed Betsson on the list following the outcome of a legal case in Helsinki Administrative Court, in which the business was accused of targeting the Finnish market in its marketing material.

In February, a Betsson spokesperson insisted it was “compliant with the prohibition order”.

The operator also denied targeting the Finnish market, and that it intended to appeal the case to the country’s Supreme Court.

“The Finnish payment blocking system has not de facto been tested before the Betsson case, and it will be interesting to see how the National Police Board, as the supervisory authority, will react to such an action clearly contrary to the spirit of the law,” said Finish market expert Antti Koivula.  

“Considering the content of the Lotteries Act and the discussions held during the legislative process leading to the implementation of the payment blocking system, this kind of arrangement could not have come as a surprise to anyone.

“This kind of potential cat-and-mouse game may also have longer-term consequences for Betsson, as their activities could affect their chances of obtaining a licence in Finland once the gambling system change comes into effect,” he added.

Finland is set to phase out its monopoly system with the introduction of a licensing model by 2026.

In previous market launches, such as the Netherlands, an operator’s degree of compliance with the previous regime has played a role in whether the business is granted a licence.

“It is also noteworthy that illegal gambling marketing is subject to criminal liability under the Criminal Code, according to which criminal responsibility for unlawful gambling marketing could be directed at certain individuals directly responsible for the operations within the gambling company,” added Koivula.

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