The fight against Covid-19 in the country has left online gambling in legal limbo, as the Latvian government has not clarified whether these operations will also be suspended during the ordered quarantine to prevent the spread of the virus.
Over the weekend, the national government issued an edict to try to stem the spread of the coronavirus, which has been dubbed a “national threat” by authorities.
The measures taken include the prohibition of all types of gaming activity: casinos, slot machines, bingo halls and betting shops, which had to suspend their activities until April 14, when the situation will be re-evaluated again.
Originally, the government decision excluded “interactive gambling, number lotteries and instant lotteries”. But after local media published opinions from political sectors arguing that with people confined to their homes by quarantine, the possibility of online gambling being abused increased enormously. In a second vote, it was decided with 37 votes in favor and 22 against, to include online gambling in the list of prohibited activities, although the original exclusion continued in final legislation.
The Lotteries and Gambling Inspection and Supervisory Agency (IAUI), reported on tuesday that it asked the government to issue a final statement clearly stating whether Latvia’s 14 interactive gaming licensees should suspend their operations. Although since tuesday, the country’s online operators have not stopped their activities.
Latvian online gambling operators have had record sales and revenue in the past year. Revenue saw an increase of € 54.7 million (almost a third), which was generated mostly by online casino games and sports betting. It was expected that there would be further growth during 2020, thanks to new gaming legislation in which banks and other financial institutions in the country are prohibited from processing payments in favor of international betting sites without a local license.
The closure of activities caused by the coronavirus has affected numerous sectors of the industry, whose workers are paying the consequences. Welfare Minister Ramona Petravica announced on tuesday the layoff of some 2,900 employees of 14 companies in the country in all sectors, from transportation to hospitality and gambling.
However, the Latvian government announced a plan to mitigate the effects of Covid-19 for around € 2 trillion, which includes covering the payment of 75% of the salary of laid-off employees up to a maximum salary of € 700 per month.