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The Aland Islands are a group of islands off the coast of Sweden, although they are considered part of Finland instead, and are actually an autonomous region, and they make all their own laws and rule their own people. So in spite of being part of Finland, the Aland Islands do function as a separate country, and is generally considered to be one. (1)
The Aland Islands were declared separate from Finland and granted autonomy by the League of Nations in 1921, which had to be affirmed by Finland for them to be admitted to the European Union.
The population here is a very modest 28,000 people, with 90% of them residing on Fasta Aland. The Aland Islands do play a lot bigger role in gambling though than one would think by looking at their very small population and land area.
Finland currently operates a gambling monopoly, called RAY, much to the chagrin of the EU, who object to monopolies in general and in particular gambling monopolies, as their mission is to permit free trade among companies within the union, which Finland is a member.
RAY not only has the EU to contend with though, they also have some pretty stiff competition from the Aland Islands, who have a gambling monopoly of their own, known as PAF. PAF isn’t just interpreted in offering gambling on the Aland Islands though, which wouldn’t be that significant and wouldn’t be anything the Finns would worry about, they compete directly with RAY for Finnish online players as well though, something RAY and the Finns do care about.
Back in 2005, PAF was charged with violating Finnish law by offering online gambling to residents of Finland. The only problem with that is that PAF is located on the Aland Islands, not Finland, and therefore isn’t subject to Finnish law. So they may have broken Finnish law but this law doesn’t apply to them, the law of the Aland Islands does, which they weren’t breaking, so they claimed they weren’t in violation of the law, or at least the law that applies to them. (2)
This battle continues, and PAF still offers online gambling to Finns, much to the chagrin of the Finnish government, but they have been powerless to stop it, as the Aland Islands make their own laws and regulate their own gambling.
Playing Poker in the Aland Islands
The Aland Islands attract a lot of tourists, so in spite of having less than 30,000 people, they do have a casino, the Arkipelag Hotel and Casino to be specific. This isn’t a particularly large casino but suits the purposes of these islands quite well. (3)
The casino offers 3 poker tables and rolls out both Texas Holdem and Omaha. While a lot of the traffic here is from the tourist trade, local residents are welcome as well, and folks here have surprisingly good access to live poker should they wish to play it.
PAF also offers online poker, and unlike RAY’s online poker site in Finland, PAFs allow players to play against opponents from countries other than Finland, which is a drawback of RAY’s online poker site.
This isn’t PokerStars or 888 Poker by any means, but they do allow more traffic than their competing site from Finland.
Aland Islanders can also play at any number of other online poker sites, wherever they wish actually, and while PAF does prefer they play at their site, there is nothing stopping online players here from playing wherever they want.
PAF does donate all of its profits to charity though, which is something that players find appealing, and some simply are not aware of all of the options available to them. PAF is mostly directed at Finland though, which is of course much larger than the Aland Islands, almost 200 times larger in fact, so no one is really concerned where residents of the Aland Islands play anyway.
So it’s very unlikely that the government of the Aland Islands will crack down and block their people from playing at non licensed sites, so the choice players enjoy is very likely to continue. In spite of what the government may wish, there are just too few players from here to worry about, and PAF’s sights are fixed on a much more lucrative market anyway.