Inventing a new Corporate Organizational Structure, Interview with Olli Sarekoski, CEO, Veikkaus

Effective 1 January, 2017, the three authorized operators of games-of-chance in Finland were merged into one.  Veikkaus Oy now has the exclusive right to operate all gaming in Finland.

We have all read about the exciting merger of the three Finland games-of-chance operators (Fintoto, Slot Machine Association RAY, and Veikkaus) with great interest. How will the merger benefit the players, and society in general? 

Yes, we have indeed been living in very exciting and interesting times! The political process for realizing the potential merger was launched in December 2014; the analysis of the process was begun in spring 2015 and finally, on 1 January 2017, the new Veikkaus started its operations.

Thanks to the merger, we not only achieve a win-win situation but a win-win-win-win situation. To our customers we can now offer the best games and services and we can in fact do that by using the one-counter principle. To our beneficiaries the change offers the steadiest and most optimal development prospects. From society’s point of view, the merger makes our national gaming system stronger. As regards CSR, the one-counter principle enables us to adopt new operation models in the prevention of gaming-related detriments and provides us with new powerful tools for gaming control.

What aspects of the merger do you think may not be properly understood and you could add insight for us? 

The first thing that may not be understood is what we accomplished in 2016. It was a truly hectic year for the staff of the gaming operators. The preparations for the merger were in full swing throughout the year and hundreds of our employees were involved in them. Yet, at the same time, the staff of all the three gaming operators were able to carry out their daily duties in their respective companies. We performed incredibly well in the middle of a most hectic merger process. As the three operators published their financial reports for their last year of operations, 2016, the titles were as follows: “Fintoto’s sales developed favourably”, “The best result in RAY’s history” and “A record-breaking final year of operations for the old Veikkaus”. The three operators left behind the best possible legacy to the new company.  We are in great shape at the very beginning of the new company! Huge thanks to the staff for working so hard!

Another issue to be noted is the scope of the merger. On our to-do-list, we have Finland’s largest webstore, the new company’s brand work, organising 2,000 employees, 7,000 points of sale, one international casino, 90 arcades, dozens of ICT projects, combining the game offerings of the three operators, launching new products, two million loyal customers, building the new company’s customer loyalty programme, etc. etc. The workload is enormous: every one of us as Veikkaus employees will become familiar with the entire field of gaming. At the same time we feel that we are truly privileged. We get to experience a totally unique journey!

Does the merger of Ray, Fintoto, and Veikkaus enhance the ability to enforce regulations against illegal games-of-chance operators? 

From the company’s point of view, we are only aiming at a successful merger process and success for our new company. The possible measures taken by our regulator to fight illegal operators are not connected to the merger of the gaming operators in any way. Besides, from Veikkaus’ perspective, the situation is most clear. The gaming system decisions are political. As a company, we comply with the rules society lays down. Naturally, as part of our community relations work, we communicate how important it is that the regulation should enable Veikkaus in particular to retain its competitive capacity. That way we can continue to channel gaming consumption towards the legally operated Finnish alternative.

What kind of market environment is the new Veikkaus facing?

There is no doubt that the company’s toughest competition resides in the digital channels, against international operators. Entertainment and the global leisure time market set the level of requirements for the products and services on the gaming market. Almost all of the growth comes from the Internet, especially the mobile applications. At the same time, the customers seek experiences that are more and more entertaining and games that have high event frequency. The successful operators of the future’s digital gaming market, which Veikkaus unquestionably needs to belong to, are expected to offer completely new types of products and services. Products and services shaped by what the consumers have gotten used to on the entertainment and leisure-time market.

How are you integrating three different corporate cultures to forge a dynamic, integrated, and unified culture and organization?  Is that a difficult task?

The corporate culture of the new company, and efforts to build it, are in key position. Everyone has to accept the fact that it will take years before we have a shared corporate culture, shared identity, and shared vocabulary. Of course, our shared value basis helps us a great deal: we work in the best interest of our beneficiaries. The situation is also clear as a whole: The new Veikkaus Oy is owned entirely by the Finnish State and has the exclusive right to operate all gaming in Finland. The gaming revenue continues to be used for good causes, to support social and health care organisations, art, sports, science, youth work, as well as the equestrian sports and horse breeding. Whilst building shared corporate culture, we also need to ensure that we share a view of our mission and operating environment.

The merger has been prepared for a long time and the work will continue for a long time. We have three theses in Veikkaus, which we apply all the time: 1. Respect: Treat your new colleagues the way you would like people to treat you. 2. Zero tolerance: Respect towards what happened before the merger. The old companies’ ways of operating are not subject to criticism. 3. A new optimum: All choices are only reflected against the objectives of the new company.

I value dialogue that is as open as possible, before making a decision. We need to have a culture where people are not afraid to express themselves. Otherwise some views may go unnoticed. Let’s remember Thomas Aquinas’ famous quote: “Beware of the person of one book”.

The webstores, and, together with the related user IDs are staying the same for now.  Will that be changing? What are possible next steps?

During Q2/2017 we will have unified player management, so soon there will be “only”  We will also have a single native application for our players. During Q3/2017 we can provide single player experiences using only one wallet. I want to give you all a sneak peak focusing on our digital channel – the key figures are impressive: we will have approximately 600K weekly players and the GGR for 2017 is estimated to reach over €500 million.

Veikkaus has always been a pioneer, especially in digital and the development of the interactive relationship with consumers.  What is the next frontier that you are working towards? 

Veikkaus is moving to a new era. We are developing our own machine-learning based personalization software. We have been using commercial products before, but now we firmly believe that we can offer more individual user experiences by controlling our own algorithms and the predictors behind them. Last year we already had 940 million personalized decisions at and this figure is naturally rapidly growing. This year we are also connecting our own personalization engine to digital marketing and e-mail marketing to create really unique digital experiences for our customers.

One of the frontiers I also want to focus on is bilateral and multilateral innovation and co-operation between the EL Members. We need to join forces to be able to offer attractive products and services to European customers.

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Inventer une nouvelle structure organisationnelle d’entreprise, entretien avec Olli Sarekoski, PDG, Veikkaus. Olli Sarekoski : Grâce à la fusion, nous atteignons non seulement une position gagnant-gagnant, mais aussi une position gagnant-gagnant-gagnant-gagnant. Pour nos clients, à qui nous pouvons désormais proposer les meilleurs jeux et services en utilisant, d’ailleurs, le principe du compteur unique. À nos bénéficiaires, le changement offre les perspectives de développement les plus stables et les plus optimales. Du point de vue de la société, la fusion rend le système de jeu national plus fort. En ce qui concerne la RSE, le principe du compteur unique nous permet d’adopter de nouveaux modèles d’opération dans la prévention des préjudices liés au jeu et nous fournit de nouveaux outils puissants pour le contrôle des jeux.   Sur notre liste de choses à faire se trouvent la plus grande boutique en ligne de Finlande, le travail sur la marque de la nouvelle entreprise, l’organisation de 2 000 employés, de 7 000 points de vente, d’un casino international, de 90 salles de jeux, des dizaines de projets TIC, les actions pour combiner les offres de jeux des trois opérateurs et le lancement de nouveaux produits, deux millions de clients fidèles, la création du programme de fidélisation de la clientèle de la nouvelle entreprise, etc. La charge de travail est énorme : chacun de nous, parmi les employés de Veikkaus, se familiarisera avec l’ensemble du terrain de jeu. En même temps, nous estimons que nous sommes vraiment privilégiés. Nous vivons une aventure totalement unique !   La culture d’entreprise de la nouvelle société et les efforts pour la construire se trouvent en position clé. Tout le monde doit accepter le fait qu’il faudra des années avant que nous partagions complètement la même culture d’entreprise, la même identité et un vocabulaire commun. Bien sûr, notre base de valeur commune nous aide beaucoup : nous travaillons dans le meilleur intérêt de nos bénéficiaires. Tout en construisant une culture d’entreprise commune, nous devons également veiller à partager les mêmes vues sur notre mission et notre environnement d’exploitation.   Veikkaus entre dans une nouvelle ère. Nous développons notre propre logiciel de personnalisation basé sur l’apprentissage par machine. Nous utilisions déjà des produits commerciaux, mais nous croyons désormais fermement que nous pouvons offrir plus d’expériences individuelles d’utilisateur en contrôlant nos propres algorithmes et les prédicteurs qui les sous-tendent. Cette année, nous associons également notre propre moteur de personnalisation au marketing numérique et au marketing par e-mail pour créer des expériences numériques vraiment uniques pour nos clients.   L’une des frontières sur laquelle je voudrais également mettre l’accent est l’innovation bilatérale et multilatérale, et la coopération entre les membres de l’EL. Nous devons unir nos forces pour pouvoir offrir des produits et des services attrayants aux clients européens.
Inventando una nueva estructura organizativa en la empresa: entrevista a Olli Sarekoski, Director Ejecutivo, Veikkaus. Olli Sarekoski: Gracias a la fusión, no solo conseguimos una situación en la que las empresas salimos ganando, sino que también beneficia a nuestros clientes: ahora podemos ofrecerles los mejores juegos y servicios valiéndonos del principio del “mostrador único”. Este cambio ofrece a nuestros beneficiarios las mejores y más estables perspectivas de desarrollo. Desde el punto de vista de la sociedad, la fusión fortalece nuestro sistema de juego nacional. Respecto a la RSC, el principio del “mostrador único” nos permite adoptar nuevos modelos operativos para la prevención de las desventajas relacionadas con el juego, y nos proporciona nuevas y potentes herramientas para controlar el juego.   Nuestra lista de tareas incluye: crear la tienda web más grande de Finlandia; definir la marca de la nueva empresa; organizar a 2000 empleados, 7000 puntos de venta, un casino internacional, 90 salas de juego y docenas de proyectos de ICT, combinando las ofertas de juego de los tres operadores; lanzar nuevos productos, ocuparnos de dos millones de fieles clientes, construir el nuevo programa de fidelización de clientes de la empresa, y mucho más. La carga de trabajo es enorme, y todos y cada uno de nosotros, como empleados de Veikkaus, nos familiarizaremos con todos los aspectos del sector del juego. Al mismo tiempo, nos sentimos realmente privilegiados. ¡Vamos a vivir una experiencia única!   La cultura empresarial de la nueva compañía y el trabajo necesario para construirla ocupan un lugar fundamental. Todo el mundo tiene que aceptar que tardaremos años hasta que tengamos una cultura empresarial, una identidad y un vocabulario compartidos. Por supuesto, la base de nuestros valores compartidos nos ayuda sobremanera: trabajamos por y para nuestros beneficiarios. Al tiempo que creamos una cultura empresarial conjunta, necesitamos asegurarnos de que compartimos la visión sobre nuestra misión y sobre el entorno en el que trabajamos.   Veikkaus avanza hacia una nueva era. Estamos desarrollando nuestro propio software de personalización basado en aprendizaje automático. Hemos estado usando productos comerciales con anterioridad, pero ahora estamos firmemente convencidos de que podemos ofrecer experiencias de usuario más individualizadas controlando nuestros propios algoritmos y los mecanismos de predicción que se esconden tras ellos. Este año también vamos a conectar nuestro proprio motor de personalización con el marketing digital y por correo electrónico para, poder crear así experiencias digitales únicas para nuestros clientes.   Una de las fronteras en las que también me quiero concentrar es la innovación bilateral y multilateral, así como la cooperación entre los miembros de la EL. Necesitamos unir nuestros esfuerzos para ser capaces de ofrecer productos y servicios atractivos a los clientes europeos.    
Erfindung einer neuen Unternehmensorganisationsstruktur, Interview mit Olli Sarekoski, CEO, Veikkaus. Olli Sarekoski: Dank der Fusion erreichen wir nicht nur eine Win-Win-Situation, sondern eine Win-Win-Win-Win-Situation. Unseren Kunden können wir jetzt die besten Spiele und Dienstleistungen anbieten und das können wir in der Tat mit dem One-Counter-Prinzip machen. Für unsere Begünstigten bietet die Veränderung die bestmöglichen und optimalen Entwicklungsperspektiven. Aus gesellschaftlicher Sicht macht die Fusion unser nationales Spielsystem stärker. In Bezug auf CSR ermöglicht uns das One-Counter-Prinzip, neue Operationsmodelle bei der Prävention von spielbedingten Nachteilen zu verabschieden und gibt uns neue, leistungsstarke Werkzeuge für die Spielekontrolle.   Auf unserer To-Do-Liste haben wir Finnlands größten Webstore, die Markenarbeit des neuen Unternehmens, die Organisation von 2.000 Mitarbeitern, 7.000 Verkaufsstellen, ein internationales Casino, 90 Spielhallen, Dutzende von IKT-Projekten, die die Spielangebote der drei miteinander verknüpfen Betreibern kombinieren, neue Produkte, zwei Millionen treue Kunden, den Aufbau des Kundenbindungsprogramms usw. Die Arbeitsbelastung ist enorm: Jeder von uns als Veikkaus-Mitarbeiter wird sich mit dem gesamten Spielfeld vertraut machen. Gleichzeitig fühlen wir, dass wir wirklich privilegiert sind. Wir erleben eine ganz einmalige Reise!   Die Unternehmenskultur des neuen Unternehmens und die Bemühungen, sie aufzubauen, stehen in der Schlüsselposition. Jeder muss die Tatsache akzeptieren, dass es Jahre dauern wird, bevor wir eine gemeinsame Unternehmenskultur, eine gemeinsame Identität und ein gemeinsames Vokabular haben. Natürlich hilft uns unsere gemeinsame Wertbasis sehr viel: Wir arbeiten im besten Interesse unserer Begünstigten. Während wir eine gemeinsame Unternehmenskultur aufbauen, müssen wir auch sicherstellen, dass wir einen Blick auf unsere Mission und unsere Arbeitsumgebung teilen.   Veikkaus bewegt sich in eine neue Ära. Wir entwickeln unsere eigene maschinenbasierte Personalisierungssoftware. Wir haben bereits kommerzielle Produkte verwendet, aber jetzt sind wir fest davon überzeugt, dass wir mehr individuelle Nutzererfahrungen anbieten können, indem wir unsere eigenen Algorithmen und die Prädiktoren hinter ihnen kontrollieren. Wir haben bereits kommerzielle Produkte eingesetzt, aber jetzt sind wir fest davon überzeugt, dass wir in diesem Jahr auch unseren eigenen Personalisierungsmotor mit digitalem Marketing und E-Mail-Marketing verbinden, um für unsere Kunden wirklich einzigartige digitale Erfahrungen zu schaffen.   Eine der Grenzen, auf die ich mich auch konzentriere, ist die bilaterale und multilaterale Innovation und Kooperation zwischen den EL-Mitgliedern. Wir müssen uns zusammenschließen, um unseren Kunden attraktive Produkte und Dienstleistungen anbieten zu können.    

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