One thing that you will have likely noticed about Finland is that there seem to be slot machines everywhere. They can be observed not only in casinos, but also in grocery stores, kiosks, restaurants, and bars.
Playing these machines is a practically a mandatory part of being Finnish. If you truly wish to blend in with the native population, never go to the kioski for a pack of gum or a newspaper without at least playing a few rounds on one of these machines. Your change from the grocery store should always be deposited into these no-armed bandits, and if you are out for a night on the down, don’t forget to test your drunken luck with a Euro or two against marvelous contraptions.

The machines come in several types: The basic mechanical hedelmäpeli (fruit game) into which you simply deposit money, push the buttons, and watch your money disappear.
Then there are the video poker machines, which tend to offer a variety of different poker styles. Again, operation is simple – kiss your coins goodbye, drop them in the slot, push the buttons of your choice, and walk away a few Euros poorer.
More recently the trend in gaming is the video multi-game machine, which is as it sounds – a console which offers a variety of games, usually keno, poker, and your traditional slot fruit machine-type games. You know the drill. Insert coins and never see them again.

The money goes to RAY- the Raha-automaattiyhdistys (Finland’s Slot Machine Association) which, through its marvelous gaming operations, supports Finnish health and welfare organizations. Some of the organizations which your losses will support include the Finnish Federation of the Visually Impaired, the Finnish Lifeboat Association, SETA (an organization promoting LGBT rights in Finland, as well as the work of the Finnish Red Cross, providing assistance to drug and alcohol overdose victims at music festivals. RAY also provides funding to No Fixed Abode, an NGO which operates day centers and night cafes for the homeless.
RAY has a monopoly in Finland when it comes to slot machines, casinos, and table games (blackjack, craps, roulette – all of which you will find in your finer nightclubs). Due to this exclusive right, the amount of funding they generate for charity is quite impressive. In 2011 has distributed 268,200,000 Euros to promote health and social welfare in Finland.

So blend in, foreigner, blend in! Do your part in maintaining ourgreat society by dropping your coins into the high-tech collection boxes provided by RAY. Although these games essentially increase the amount of tax you pay, it’s worth it! Every coin you lose may give a junkie the chance to safely test their personal limits at a rock and roll show, help maintain the nation’s lifeboat fleet, or allow a lazy native Finn to avoid gainful employment and death by freezing for another few years. If you plan on staying here for a while and find yourself down on your luck, you might even get your investment back one day.

Willie Lahti