Online Gambling Banned in Latvia
by Glenn Baird - March 26, 2020
In response to growing concerns that vulnerable gamblers stuck at home could find themselves logging into casinos far too often over the current period of Corona enforced self-isolation, the Latvian government have decided to ban online gambling in the country.
The decision has been met with industry resistance, to the extent now operator are now threatening the government in Latvia with lawsuits.
Earlier on this week, Jānis Trēgers, head of the Latvian Association of Internet Gambling (LIAB), issued a statement that took to task the government’s decision to include online gambling in a list of restricted activities during the country’s Covid-19 lockdown.
Trēgers lambasted the decision that he described as flying in the face of “economic logic”. He pointed out that the market had already taken a dip by 26% and that ban it completely would result in the death of the online gambling industry.
He warned that the decision had “swiped a bold stripe over everything that had been done in Latvia to combat illegal gambling sites.” These measures include only allowing payments from Latvian bank accounts to be made to online operators that hold a Latvian licence.
Trēgers believes that banning legitimate online gambling in Latvia will lead to a surge in gamblers accessing sites with licences that are held out with the country. He went on to state that the LIAB had already offered to donate 20m Euros to the government, a sum Trēgers claims was “enough for one-third of all employees in state medical institutions to receive higher wages.”
He warns that it has taken nearly a decade since that last financial crash in 2008 for Latvian gambling operators to recover and that decision will undo all that progress.
Georgian Ustinov, CEO of Enlabs AB supported Trēgers’ views, stating that the Government’s decision to temporarily ban online gambling was likely to result in “investment protection claims” of up to €160m.
Ustinov argues that the measures are unfair as no other country in Europe has seen fit to implement them and he went to add that he believed that maintaining Latvian lottery operations was contrary to the Government’s decision online gambling.
Whilst Latvia might be the only country in Europe to have made this decision, they won’t be the only country to have considered it. Fears that problem gamblers stuck at home with access to online casinos should be taken seriously, but an outright ban could lead an increase in players accessing the black market and it would also likely lead to the demise of many smaller operators.