In less than three years since the register of self-withdrawn persons has been in place in Latvia, more than 37 thousand people have voluntarily refused access to gambling and lotteries. The minimum closing date is one year, and 13 thousand people are past it. This means that a total of 24 thousand people are currently in the register. Almost 97% of those on the register are men, said Signe Birne, head of the Lotteries and Gambling Monitoring Inspectorate. According to her, the register works well and this level should continue to be maintained.
“I believe it is a good indicator and people are taking advantage of this given opportunity,” Birne said. The risk of gambling addiction remains very high in Latvia: three years ago, a study carried out by the Ministry of Health shows that 6% or 79 thousand people in Latvia are at risk of gambling addiction, while 16 thousand have a heavy dependency.
Although no accounts have been made for how many Latvian residents gamble, the associate professor of Rīga Stradiņš University, Anda Ķīvīte-Urtāne, said conclusions can be made regardless.
“For example, there is no smoking register in Latvia, and there will probably never be one, but that is why nationally representative studies are carried out. We know that about a third of Latvia's population is smoking. I have just looked at a previous, 2019 study, which concludes that half of Latvia's population has gambled once. And once a month, regular players, are 12.5% of adults. We know the numbers,” Ķīvīte-Urtāne said.
The researcher calls the self-withdrawn register a lifesaver, but it is not enough.
“The register cannot be the only activity. There is always a need for a package of measures. The scientific literature contains four of these complexes. Neither of those methods is perfect, and the register will save us, too, but it's a good, thick slice of Swiss cheese that has holes. But they have to be put atop one another, in addition to everything that is already being done in Latvia,” said Ķīvīte-Urtāne.
During an expert discussion on Tuesday, a number of proposals were made to improve the register, like shortening the minimum period of self-withdrawal, setting the minimum age of gambling at 21, and develop a joint register for the Baltic.