Unlicensed online gambling restrictions take effect in Latvia in 2020

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Several legal amendments restricting organizers of unlicensed online gambling will be implemented from January 1, according to Latvian Radio on December 15.

The amendments will be tested beginning in December, but from 2020 banks will reject payment from unlicensed gambling players. At the end of the year information about illegal gambling participants will be compiled and evaluated by the State Revenue Service as well.

Finance Ministry representative Olga Bogdānova said that in Latvia illegal internet gambling makes up 38% of all organized gambling and is an approximately 33 million euro market. Amendments to the Electronic Communications Law, the law On Gambling and Lotteries, the Latvian Administrative Violations Code and the Law On Payment Services and Electronic Money will take effect next year.

“We rate this sector as a high-risk industry, so we are implementing several restrictions. Unlicensed operator websites will be blocked. Second – those who send money to the accounts of unlicensed operators will be blocked,” said Bogdānova.

Finance Association Latvia Legal Advisor Edgars Pastars said "The law says it's the responsibility of banks to reject payments made over the internet or using a bank card. We don't think that a significant portion of bank clients are currently involved in such transactions, so it will affect a small proportion of clients.”

“Account access won't be blocked, but the specific card transactions will be rejected a the time of the transaction. Of course we also brought the attention of state institutions to the fact that there are still financial services offered by other countries. We understand that it's not a complete solution, but it's important nonetheless,” continued Pastars.

Lotteries and Gambling Supervision Inspection Director Signe Birne said that illegal online gambling has been blocked since 2014, but new sites pop up in place of the closed ones. There is, however, an apparent result – in 2018 taxable income from gambling was 41 million euros, but this year it could reach 54 million. The law the law On Gambling and Lotteries has also included strict consumer protection requirements. “There are restrictions on bets, identification requirements, age restrictions. It's also possible to request that a person with problems not be allowed to play,” said the Director.

“There are plenty of ways to protect people, but of course we can't do that on these unlicensed platforms. That's why there are additional measures,” said Birne.

Online gambling isn't illegal in Latvia. Last year the state budget gained a total of 39 million euros in taxes from gambling and lotteries – eight million more than the previous year. A list of licensed gambling organizers is available on the Lotteries and Gambling Supervision Inspection website.

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