Researcher of the Month: Janne Nikkinen

Who are you?

I work as University Researcher and have been a full-time researcher at CEACG for eight years now. Most of my work has been conducted in projects funded by the Academy of Finland (PI emeritus Prof. Pekka Sulkunen), in total three times in a row (Gambling and European welfare states, 2014-16; Political economy of gambling, 2018-22; Commercial determinants of harm in the digital environment of gambling, 2022-26). 

How did you end up at CEACG?

I obtained my doctorate in 2007. The subject of my dissertation was health care rationing in Finland, US Oregon and New Zealand. At that moment of time (in 2007) I had studied issues related to health care resource allocation and rationing for almost a decade (my Masters’ Thesis had a similar focus). Thus, it was a proper time to change the research subject. I was contacted by Finnish Blue Ribbon (a nationwide substance abuse treatment organisation), which commissioned research about gambling-related harm. After that assignment I obtained funding for similar work from the Finnish Foundation for Alcohol Studies (2008-09). Between 2010 and 2015 I worked as acting lecturer, but since it was a non-tenured position, I moved to CEACG in the beginning of 2016. 

What is your current research about? 

My research covers a range of topics, including assessment of regulatory frameworks of gambling, analysing gambling policy affairs and finding out ways for effective prevention of gambling harm. Last year we published a review of legislative changes in gambling policy in 33 jurisdictions across the world in Lancet Public Health, together with CEACG Director Virve Marionneau and our colleagues in the University of Glasgow (Prof. Heather Wardle and Dr Daria Ukhova). 

One key research area at the moment is offshore gambling, what are the actors and their business models. In order to explore the issues related to it more closely, I am conducting field work in industry conferences and European online gambling hubs (incl. Isle of Man, Gibraltar and Malta).

Why do you think it is important to examine this topic?

The ‘Big Gambling’ is an ongoing class project, to quote two senior Australian gambling researchers (Francis Markham and Martin Young). It transfers vast quantities of money from those who are disadvantaged to those who are already wealthy. For example, in the UK the highest paid CEO in last financial year was the CEO of gambling company Bet365, who was paid more than 270 million pounds. She had a seven-million-pound increase compared to the previous fiscal year. At the same time, many of those who gamble excessively end up living in poverty. 

Governments, including the ones in Finland, are typically complicit in the injustices committed by the industry, since they are in dire need of tax revenue. The Finnish gambling monopoly was established with a great idea, in principle: if people gamble anyway, the money could be used to support ‘good causes’. However, in practice the government has had a strong incentive to uphold this revenue stream and promote gambling, instead of protecting public health - as it should. In this continuous revenue collection, Veikkaus and its predecessors have always pushed players towards more harmful forms of gambling. And Veikkaus will continue to do so in order to stay competitive, especially after Finland moves into licensing of online gambling (in 2026). 

Gambling research is needed to highlight the fact that commercial gambling is a zero-sum game in which nothing of value is created. The driving force behind it is to take advantage of people who have virtually no opportunities for upward social mobility or any other possibilities of improving their livelihood through alternative income-generating activities. Finding out ways to replace gambling proceeds from state budgets is an important topic for future research, as it is money lost elsewhere by those who are least able to afford it and harm is growing.   

If you could switch places with your CEACG colleague for one day, who would you choose and why?

I esteem all my CEACG colleagues very highly, but I wish to recognize especially University Researcher, Docent Michael Egerer in this context. His knowledge about research methods and sociology is immense.