Will online casinos be closed again during the home stay in Latvia?
The Latvian government issued an updated draft law that effectively banned online gambling.
An updated bill prohibits online gambling in Latvia
The Latvian government issued an updated draft law, with which the ban on online games, Latvian casino bonuses came into effect immediately. This decision was made during an extraordinary session, referring to the bill that President Egils Levits signed earlier.
The original bill included a ban on lotteries and gambling, number lotteries and instant draws, but the status and future of online gambling was uncertain. With that in mind, starting this Monday, all gambling, including online gambling, has been banned by the Latvian government. Depending on the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, further maintenance of the current rules and an extension of the gaming ban for a period of up to three months may be proposed.
The outbreak of COVID-19 in Latvia
The total number of confirmed cases of the pandemic since the virus was discovered now stands at 128,688. The latest data show that the spread of the virus in the country is under control and specialists have managed to limit the rapid spread of the virus to some extent. Of the 18,493 tests performed within 24 hours, 3% were positive. 4% is considered the threshold at which the virus spreads out of control. The 14-day cumulative infection rate per 100,000 population increased slightly from 428.4 on Monday to 435.6 on Tuesday. Anything above 200 is classified as a “very high risk” pandemic situation in the government’s four-tiered “traffic light” system. Unfortunately, eleven more deaths were also confirmed on Tuesday, bringing the total number of victims since the start of the pandemic to 2,280. Meanwhile, 295 new cases were confirmed in Estonia on May 18, while 685 cases were confirmed in Lithuania.
The gambling industry is receiving blow after blow
Regarding the bill itself, both President Levits and CEO Ustinov doubted whether illegal operators could emerge when this bill was submitted. The current ban is not the first blow the gambling industry has suffered. It was in November 2019 that the Latvian Saeima (also called the Parliament of the Baltic Nation) approved many amendments regarding taxes, laws and fees for lotteries and gambling. The main goal of the changes was for the gambling industry to contribute more to the state budget. The ban on gambling in Latvia is not unusual for Europe during the recent COVID-19 pandemic. A similar step was taken by Spain, where gambling advertising was limited due to the outbreak of the virus. In the UK – The Gambling Commission offered the gaming operator further restrictions on the age of players, effectively offering a ban on players under the age of 25.
Public events (concerts, cinema screenings, theater performances, etc.) are prohibited. Private gatherings are not allowed outside of your household. Hiking trails are open for individual hikers. Museums, churches, libraries, art galleries and other cultural institutions are closed and events are cancelled. Along with visits to the outdoor trails, the museum’s outdoor exhibits will remain open, providing one-way traffic. Restaurants and catering are closed except for delivery and takeout. In all stores, each customer must have an area of 15 m2. Hotels remain open. Entertainment venues such as clubs, arcades and bars are closed. Active recreation areas such as ice rinks, amusement parks, water parks, as well as spas, saunas and wellness centers are closed. From March 1, manicure, pedicure, podiatrist and hairdresser services are allowed. Professional sports competitions are allowed without spectators. Outdoor training is allowed for up to 10 people; however, the use of changing rooms is not permitted.
The impact of the pandemic on the gambling business
The annual report of casino companies for the year 2020 mentions a drop in turnover and the losses are related to the adoption of the gambling addiction register, Covid-19 prevention measures and periodic closure of gaming rooms. The management of the Admirals Club reports that before the state of emergency, the company organized gambling in 25 gaming halls with 600 gaming machines, which is a decrease of 33% compared to 2019. The report mentions that last year the company continued to invest in development. In 2020, a contract was signed with Gaming Innovation Group Inc. for creating an online gambling platform. Admirals Club management predicts that 2021 will prove to be a very difficult year for the gambling industry.