2021 Might Prove to be an Extremely Turbulent Year for the Latvian iGaming Industry

  • 2021-03-25
  • Viktoria Krusenvald

The Latvian gambling industry has been going strong for the last ten years. In addition to several well-established land-based casinos, Latvia is also one of the few countries where online gambling is thriving, largely thanks to the favorable regulation that grants licenses to iGaming businesses.

While it’s not the easiest feat to get a gambling permit in Latvia, there are 13 well-known online casinos offering their game selection to Latvian players. Equipped with gambling permits, online gambling operators started dominating the market – in 2015, the sector had increased by 98%.

However, the recent turbulent times across the globe have also shaken the Latvian iGaming industry to the point where nothing is certain anymore. In 2020, online gambling operators were forced to shut down their operation completely for 2 months, according to a decision made by the Latvian government in relation to pandemic regulations and restrictions. This was an unprecedented move that no one could have even imagined. Latvia was the only country to ban online activities, despite the lack of physical contact between players.

Even when the ban got lifted, iGaming operators didn’t find any ease since Latvian players still kept their distance from such websites. Much to their surprise, even though online entertainment was the only one available for Latvians throughout the year, they still didn’t find their way to gambling services.

All of that resulted in 3% fewer new registrations in 2020, in comparison to the previous year. And even more: many Latvians resorted to illegal gambling operators, instead of opting for legitimate licensed ones.

Unregulated gambling sites continue causing a headache to the licensed casinos. While the latter has implemented an array of very complex mechanics to protect the wellbeing of players, unlicensed sites don’t pay taxes in Latvia nor follow the principles that go hand in hand with responsible gaming. From self-assessment questionnaires to gambling limits and proper customer service – these are all required from licensed online casinos in Latvia.

Despite the decrease in new registrations and the issue of unregulated sites, Latvian gambling operators still seem to be heading towards success. The 2-month closure didn’t hinder the revenue much, resulting in a tiny increase in 2020: total online gambling revenue in Latvia increased to over 56 million euros, while 2019 closed at around 54 million euros. Casino games and poker tournaments both saw an increase in revenue, while sports betting suffered a loss.

These numbers give hope to 2021 as well. Clearly, Latvian iGaming companies are heading towards turbulent months but as seen from the revenue increase, it really pays off to be a regulated gambling operator. Even during tougher times, Latvian iGaming is booming and very possibly, will see an increase in 2021 too, even without an increase in new registrations.