Illegal online gambling popular in Latvia, study shows

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In Latvia, around 11 thousand people use illegal betting or gambling sites on the Internet, and during the year it costs the state millions of euros in unpaid taxes, as reported by Latvian Interactive Gambling Association (LIAB) on June 17.

Data from the latest study show that Latvia's legal online betting and gambling market reached €109 million in gross winnings in 2021 and its average annual growth over three years (2018-2021) was 26%. The study predicts that after four years, the legal online gambling market will grow and reach a gross profit of €172 million.

However, along with legal online gambling, illegal gambling websites are taking up a significant part of the market. The latest survey shows that Latvia's illegal online betting and gambling market generated gross winnings of €33 million in 2021.

The popularity of illegal gambling also means that the state budget is missing out on taxes – as estimated, around EUR 3 million a year.

The future forecasts,, are optimistic, saying that the online market for illegal online betting and gambling in Latvia will decline in the coming years.

The illegal online gambling market in Latvia operates by foreign companies that have not received an operating license in Latvia. More than 40% of the market for illegal gambling is occupied by the four largest foreign operators, while the 12 largest operators account for nearly 80% of the volume of the illegal market.

The study estimated that a total of 11 thousand customers in Latvia are currently using illegal betting or gambling sites.

Signe Birne, chief executive of the Lotteries and Gambling Monitoring Inspectorate, estimated that illegal online gambling could be eliminated if the conditions for licensing were changed because the current rules are too strict and do not encourage foreign operators to enter the legal market.

Consumer education also plays an important role. The study concludes that most gamblers do not know which site is legal and which isn't.

The study also highlighted a number of directions where Latvia needs to go to reduce the proportion of illegal online gambling. One of these tasks is in the hands of legal gambling operators, who must be able to compete with illegal gambling operators in terms of supply. It is also necessary to educate gambling users again and again about safe play and the dark side of illegal games.  On the other hand, the representatives of legal gambling stressed that it was up to the state to decide whether to continue to ban advertising opportunities for legal gambling and whether to continue to impose personal income tax on winnings.

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