Emergency COVID-19 Bill Bans Online Gambling in Latvia

  • Activities to cease between April 6-14 until end of lockdown, could be extended to three months
  • Ban imposed after emergency bill language was clarified by government officials
  • Enlabs critical of decision, stating players will now use unregulated sites to gamble
Aces cards placed on computer keyboard and bound by chains and padlock
Latvia has imposed a ban on online gambling operations to protect players during the COVID-19 lockdown. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Government halts igaming operations

After issuing an emergency COVID-19 bill, the Latvian government has decided to ban online gambling with immediate effect on Monday. This means players will no longer have access to igaming activities until the government decides to lift the ban.

bill will prohibit online gambling in Latvia through April 14

The bill will prohibit online gambling in Latvia through April 14, which marks the end of the nationwide lockdown. The date could be extended further, with a possibility that the ban could last as long as three months.

Emergency bill confusion

Latvian president Egils Levits signed the emergency bill on March 22. However, at the time, the status of online gambling was unclear.

The initial filing listed a prohibition of gambling and lotteries, except for interactive gambling. It also included instant lotteries and numerical lottery games. The bill then stated that the Lotteries and Gambling Supervisory Authority would suspend gambling licenses for physical venues, electronic communication services, and interactive media.

The wording caused some confusion and required further elucidation by the Latvian government. The language has since been clarified, with all online gambling operations required to shut down as a result.

According to Janis Ungurs, director of the legal department at the Lotteries and Gambling Supervisory Authority, all online gambling sites are to cease operations on April 6, and the businesses concerned must complete all legal obligations with their customers.

Enlabs critical of the ban

Entertainment company Enlabs said the decision by Latvian government officials could lead to an increase in unregulated activity.

players will still gamble, though this time with illegal operators

President and chief executive Georg Ustinov warned that the bill would open the door for illegal operators. He pointed out in a complaint that Latvia’s parliament banned online gambling to protect players. The goal was to ensure that those who are vulnerable are not spending excessively. However, Enlabs said the government did not reach their goal by suspending the regulated market. Players will still gamble, though this time with illegal operators.

Global strict gambling measures

The changes in Latvia come at a time when gambling regulators around the world are focused on protecting players amid the COVID-19 outbreak.

Earlier this month, the Council of Ministers in Spain imposed harsher restrictions on gambling advertising. This was done to ensure that operators do not take advantage of new online customers during the nationwide lockdown. Advertisements will now only run for four hours a day from 1am to 5am.

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