The gambling business in Latvia is legalized. As of 2016, 14 operators were working in the country, of which 10 are engaged in land-based gambling establishments. The state holds a monopoly on the lottery.
Gross proceeds from the gambling business in 2016 amounted to more than 248 million EUR. Most of the profits come from slot machines – 182 million EUR in the same year. The share of online gambling in gross revenue is about 3%.
There are 6 casinos, 317 gambling halls and 57 betting points in the country. The total number of slot machines is 8,900.
The regulator of the gambling business in Latvia is the Latvian Gambling and Lottery Supervision Inspectorate (Izložu un azartspēļu uzraudzibas inspekcija). The main law is the Law on Gambling and Lotteries.
Gambling legislation of Latvia
The gambling business in Latvia is regulated by three main laws:
- Gambling and Lotteries law;
- Law on Lotteries and Gambling tax and fee;
- Law On Lotteries of Goods and Services.
The Law on Gambling and Lotteries was passed in 2006. He prescribes the basic conditions and rules of the games, as well as the issuance of licenses. Two other laws determine taxation for various games and the organization of lotteries for goods and services.
Apart from them, there are more than a dozen provisions on specific issues. For example, provision 512 defines a procedure for overseeing games and lotteries. Regulation 701 is the procedure for submitting a commodity lottery report.
The law states that operators can only install registered and certified hardware and software. Each slot machine, game table and program must be registered in the register of the Latvian Gambling and Lottery Supervision Inspection. For a certain fee, the inspectorate assigns a personal number to each of them, which then does not change.
Games can only take place inside certain venues: casinos, gambling halls, bingo halls, in a sweepstakes or sports bookmaker. A casino in Riga must have at least 10 gaming tables. Casinos outside the capital – at least 5 tables. Only in these establishments you can play roulette, cards and craps.
The gambling hall must accommodate at least 20 slot machines. All sites should be separate rooms with their own entrances. Slot machines must be networked in order to monitor their operation.
The bookmaker and the totalizator do not have to be separate. They can be part of a room.
Gambling regulatory bodies
The gambling business in Latvia is controlled by the Latvian Gambling and Lottery Supervision Inspection (Izložu un azartspēļu uzraudzibas inspekcija). Local authorities issue a permit to open a specific site, which is then reviewed by the Inspectorate.
Conditions for obtaining a license in a gambling jurisdiction
To obtain a license in Latvia, a company must be a joint stock company registered in the same country. The amount of capital in shares must be at least EUR 1,400,000. Latvian shareholders must hold more than 51% of the company’s shares.
All licenses are issued by the Latvian Gambling and Lottery Supervision Inspection. The permit is issued for an unlimited period, but must be re-confirmed by the Inspectorate annually.
To obtain a general license, a company must submit:
- documents on the financial and economic condition of the operator;
- documents on the absence of debt;
- the development plan for the next year, which indicates the types of games provided, the expected amounts and cash flows;
- confirmation that the members of the board of directors, as well as auditors, are taxpayers of the EU or the EU economic zone, have an impeccable reputation and have the right to conduct business.
The inspectorate reviews the license within 90 days from the date of the application.
The operator must then obtain permission to open a specific site. To do this, he provides a plan of the future premises, documents confirming ownership of the premises, a development plan for the site, permission from local authorities and other documents. The inspectorate also approves the managers of a casino or other type of gambling establishment.
The license fee depends on the type of game and the site. In total, the operator pays for two licenses: for the activity in general and for the opening of the site. He also pays for each gambling object installed on the site.
Payouts vary in the following range:
- general license for all types of games – 427,000 EUR once upon receipt;
- casino license – 28 460 EUR annually;
- permit for a gambling hall or a bingo hall – 4 270 EUR.
- tote license and bets – 42 690 EUR.
Operators pay tax on each game object annually:
- for each roulette table – 17,279 EUR;
- table for a card game and dice – 17 279 EUR;
- slot machine – 3 141 EUR;
- sweepstakes and bets – 15% of the organization’s income;
- bingo – 10% from the organizer;
- online games of any type – 10% of the operator’s income.
Licensed varieties of gambling
Latvian law defines the following types of games as legal:
- slot machines;
- card games;
- gambling available through the phone.
The rules of the game are determined by the operator and then submitted for approval to the Inspectorate. The document describes the game process and other detailed information: information about the operator, the size of the bets, the conditions for receiving a win, etc.
The same list of permitted games applies to online operators. RTP for online games must be at least 80% of all bets made.
Latvian users prefer slot machines. The proceeds from them in 2016 amounted to 182 million EUR or 83% of the total gross proceeds of the gambling business. Online gambling is in second place, and casino table games are in third.
Online gambling in the country
Online gambling business in Latvia is licensed in the same manner as land-based. As of 2016, 7 licenses for online platforms have been released. The license is valid only for a year, then it must be renewed for a fee.
Due to the rather high taxes and fees for licenses, online operators chose not to obtain permits, and until 2014 this market was “gray”. Then the Latvian authorities approved the Electronic Communications Law and published the first blacklist, which included world-famous operators. These include:
- William Hill;
- Betsson (dropped off the list in 2016 when it got its license).
The list contains over 980 sites and is constantly growing. Legal online operators include: Olympic Casino, Latvijas Loto, Optibet.
Popular slot machines in the country
The most popular slot machines in Latvia are from Greentube, NetEnt, Microgaming. Here are five machines that are loved by visitors:
- Book of Ra Deluxe;
- Butterfly Staxx;
- 40 Super Hot;
Book of Ra Deluxe is a 5-reel, 10-line slot machine. The player can get free spins with a special expanding symbol. The risk game allows you to increase the prize for a spin by 2 or more times. The maximum payout at the highest stake is 5,000,000 game units for 5 adventurers.
Butterfly Staxx is a slot machine from NetEnt. Contains 5 reels and 40 pay lines. The slot offers respins and free spins. During free spins, special symbols – dolls – appear on the field. Butterflies appear from them and create winning combinations.
40 Super Hot is a 5-reel, 40-line fruit slot from EGT. The maximum payout is 20,000 credits. The slot features 4 progressive jackpots.
Gemix is a slot machine from Play’n GO. Contains a playing field of 7×7 cells. The game is built on the principle of arcade “three in a row”. There are 4 bonuses with multipliers and additional symbols. As the game progresses, the user travels to various locations. Each location has special “wild” symbols.
Starburst is a five reel slot machine from NetEnt with 10 lines. The maximum coefficient is 250 for five Bar symbols. There are no bonus games. This is one of the simplest slots from the manufacturer.
Gambling software developers
There are not many gambling software producers in Latvia, but many large developers maintain offices in Latvia. For example, BetConstruct and Evolution Gaming have developer studios in Riga.
As far as Latvian manufacturers are concerned, DLV has existed since 1994. It manufactures gambling equipment for land-based casinos and focuses mainly on the local market.
The gambling business in Latvia is developing very successfully, and for this small country, casino revenues are quite substantial.
But at the same time, online casinos are experiencing certain difficulties and mainly go to the “gray” market. It is known that the remote gambling business takes on an increasing share of profits over time. If Latvia does not soften the legislation in any way, it risks losing large incomes.