According to the Ministry of Finance, €7 million was collected in the first half of the year, which is almost €16 million less than expected.
In Latvia, gambling is currently organized by 17 merchants, 10 of whom operate in gaming halls and casinos, while 13 work online. More than 2,900 workers are employed in the sector. Signe Birne, chief executive of the Lotteries and Gambling Monitoring Inspectorate, said that the pandemic had had a significant impact on the sector.
“If we look at the six-month results, then in fact, the traditional gambling sites have worked for 16 days in total. This has an impact on overall results. Of course, interactive gambling has not stopped. Unlike last year, when interactive gambling wasn't offered for about two months, they have worked nonstop this year. It also appears in the results that actually total revenue, which is in the course of six months, is from the interactive gambling,” Birne said.
Member of the Latvian Interactive Gambling Society, Chairman of the board of “11.lv” Jānis Trēgers said that the interactive gambling industry grew by an estimated 5% during the first half of this year.
"Its trend is still growing, but it's in similar sizes as it has historically been in recent years. If we compare to the last quarter before the pandemic, the total gambling volume in Latvia has fallen by two-thirds. This is very important. Namely, it can't be said that everyone who previously played is now gambling on the Internet. This fall is extremely significant. Even if some customers have migrated from the hall to the Internet, it has in no way compensated the extent seen before the pandemic,” the businessman said.
Arnis Vērzemnieks, spokesman for the Latvian Games Business Association, said that only 63 game halls out of 270 opened in June after a prolonged downtime.
“The reason is that there simply aren't enough customers. This trend, with a significant reduction in customers, started already, I would say, before the pandemic, when the Register of Self-Denied Persons was introduced, when the number of customers fell quite rapidly by 20-25%. Then, of course, there was a pandemic, and it should be noted that, from the middle of this year, this register includes those who have alimony debt, which is about 40 thousand people, and it also leaves a great impact,” Vērzemnieks said.
State Revenue Service (VID) representative Natālija Fiļipoviča said that before the pandemic tax revenues from gambling had a stable growth. For taxpayers whose main activity is lotteries and gambling, the turnover before the pandemic increased by 9-10% annually. Recession began in 2020 and it still continues.
"If we compare the revenues provided during the first half of the year, then in 2019 they amounted to €20 million for this tax. €15 million in 2020, but only €7.03 million in 2021. In fact, these tax revenues have decreased by two-thirds,” said the VID employee.