Amendments to Latvian gambling laws rejected by Parliament

  • 2021-06-03

A proposal for amending Latvia’s gambling laws was recently rejected by parliament. Before we take a look at exactly what the proposals were, let us first look at the current Latvian gambling regulations and how they compare with Estonia, Lithuania, and other European countries.

An Overview of Gambling in the Baltic Countries and Other European Countries

The Baltic countries of Latvia, Estonia, and Lithuania are well-known for their liberal outlooks, which result in things like flat tax rates, and their progressive approach also extends to gambling. Each Baltic country has regulatory frameworks that enable gambling operators like online and offline casinos to operate while protecting residents from unregulated gambling platforms.

In Latvia, the gambling industry has seen steady growth over the last decade. In 2015, the sector generated €210 million. Considering Latvia only has five land-based casinos, that is an impressive revenue. The online sector is starting to overtake, though. In the same year, the revenue of online gambling sites in Latvia increased by an incredible 98%. Estonia has many legal forms of gambling and is governed by the 2008 Gambling Act, although it is not generating as high profits as Latvia. In Lithuania, the country has around eighteen brick-and-mortar casinos, but the online sector is quickly overtaking there as well; due to the legislative amendments of 2016.

Other European countries differ in their gambling laws, but each country has its own government-backed regulatory body. Many online casinos, like Casumo Casino, are available to access in a multitude of countries. Finland is one European country worth noting because it is currently the only European country that still has a gambling monopoly. All online and offline gambling is run under the state-controlled company Veikkaus; which has exploited its position to become one of the largest gambling companies in Europe. In other European countries, laws have been changing in recent years. For instance, Spain introduced some significant changes in 2012 to allow companies to apply for gambling licenses in certain areas. Meanwhile, countries like Italy and the United Kingdom have some of the most liberal gambling laws in Europe.

The proposed Latvian Gambling law amendments

In April 2021, amendments to the law on gambling and lotteries in Latvia were proposed by members of the New Conservative Party and KPV LV. The amendments were intended to limit gambling in Latvia. Juris Jurašs, the Saeima deputy, urged other members of parliament to support the legislative draft. His motivation was highlighting how around 80,000 Latvians suffer from gambling addiction. He also said that gambling addiction was severe in 15,000 Latvians.

The proposed amendments were rejected

The Latvian parliament decided to reject the proposed amendments to the law on gambling and lotteries. While gambling addiction is certainly a problem in Latvia and other countries, most people agree that the answer is to use a robust regulatory framework and support system to help prevent gambling addiction and treat those with the problem; as is the case in many other European countries. While Latvia does indeed have an excellent regulatory framework in place, it is true that more could be done to help people with gambling addiction. But the proposed amendments were not deemed to be the correct path to take. The legislative draft contained various proposals. Among them was the proposal for making casinos in Latvia only available at four and five-star hotels, imposing opening hour limits to gambling halls, and prohibiting avoiders of alimony from engaging in gambling activities. Thirty-five Saeima deputies voted in favor of passing the draft, while fifteen voted against it, and twenty-seven abstained, thus meaning the amendments were rejected.