Gambling in Latvia
The Gambling business in Latvia is legal. As of 2016, 14 companies operate in the country, 10 of them run land-based gaming establishments. Laws and restrictions in Latvia provide the state with a monopoly on lotteries. Gross gambling revenue in 2016 was over 248 million EUR. Most of the profits come from slot machines — 182 million EUR in the same year. The share of online gambling in the gross revenue is about 3%. 6 casinos, 317 gambling halls and 57 betting offices are operating in the country. The total number of slot machines is 8,900. Gambling industry in Latvia is regulated by Lotteries and Gambling Supervision Inspection of Latvia (Izložu un azartspēļu uzraudzības inspekcija). The main law is the Law on Lottery and Gambling.
Gambling Games in Latvia
Novomatic, NetEnt and Microgaming. Below is the top five slots that are the most sought after with online casino visitors: Book of Ra Deluxe, Butterfly Staxx, 40 Super Hot, Gemix and Starburst. Book of Ra Deluxe is a five-reel slot with 10 paylines. You can earn a series of free spins with a special expanding symbol. The risk game will let you at least double your winnings. The highest payout with the maximum bet is 5,000,000 in-game units for 5 symbols of the adventure seekers. Butterfly Staxx is a slot developed by NetEnt. The slot comes with 5 reels and 40 paylines. The slot also features some re-spins and free spins. Special symbols depicted as chrysalis will land on the game screen during free spins. This is where butterflies come from and form winning combinations. 40 Super Hot is a slot developed by EGT that comes with 5 reels and 40 fixed paylines. The highest reward reaches 20,000 credits. The slot features 4 progressive jackpots. Gemix is a slot developed by Play’n GO. The slot features a 7x7 game screen. The game is based upon the arcade principle of three-in-a-row. The game features 4 bonuses with multipliers and extra symbols. You will traverse through various locations as the game progresses. Each location has special Wild symbols. Starburst is a five-reel slot by NetEnt that comes with 10 paylines. The highest multiplier is 250 for five Bar symbols. The slot has no bonus games available. This is one of the most primitive slots made by the developer.
The Gambling industry in Latvia is regulated by three main laws: the Gambling and Lotteries Law, the Law on Lotteries and Gambling Tax and Fee and Law On Lotteries of Goods and Services. The Gambling and Lotteries Law was passed back in 2006. The law prescribes the main conditions and rules for games and covers the issuance of licenses. Two other laws determine tax brackets for various games and lotteries for goods and services. Besides these laws there are over a dozen other provisions on specific issues. For example, Regulation No. 512 determines the procedure of overseeing games and lotteries. Regulation No. 701 determines the procedure of filing a report on lotteries of goods. The law states that operators can only install registered and certified equipment and software. Each slot machine, gaming table and software product must be registered with the Lotteries and Gambling Supervision Inspection of Latvia. For a certain fee, the Inspection will assign each one of them a personal number that will remain unchanged. Games can only take place inside designated sites: casinos, gambling halls, bingo halls, bookmaking offices or sports betting facilities. A casino in Riga must contain at least 10 gaming tables. Casinos outside of the capital must have at least 5 tables. These establishments are the only places where roulette games, card games and dice can be played. A gaming hall must have at least 20 slot machines. All sites must be located on separate premises, with a separate entrance. Slot machines must be linked into one network so that their operations can be monitored. A bookmaking office and a sportsbook office do not have to be located separately. They can be a part of the premises.
The Gambling industry in Latvia is monitored by Lotteries and Gambling Supervision Inspection of Latvia (Izložu un azartspēļu uzraudzības inspekcija). Local authorities will issue a permit on opening a specific site, which will then be reviewed by the Inspection.
Online gambling in Latvia is licensed the same way as the land-based industry. 7 licenses for online platforms were issued in 2016. The license is valid for one year, after which it must be extended for a certain fee. Due to high taxes and payments for licenses, online operators preferred not to obtain any permits and up until 2014 the market remained grey. Then Latvian government passed the Electronic Communications Law and published the first black list that contained the operators that are famous worldwide. The list contains over 980 websites and is replenished on a regular basis. These are the online operators that are listed among the legal ones: Olympic Casino, Latvijas Loto and Optibet.
To qualify for a license in Latvia, an applicant must be a joint-stock company registered in the country. The shares must amount to at least 1,400,000 EUR. Latvian shareholders must have more than 51% of the company's shares. All licenses are issued by the Lotteries and Gambling Supervision Inspection of Latvia. The permit is issued for an indefinite period of time, but must undergo a confirmation procedure with the Inspection each year. To apply for the common license, the company must submit the following items:
- Documents showing the financial and economic conditions of the operator
- Documents proving the absence of any debt
- The plan for the development of the next year should indicate the types of games being offered, expected amounts and cashflow
- Confirmation of the fact that all members of the Board of Directors, as well as auditors, are taxpayers from the EU or EEC, have a flawless reputation and the right to run the business
The Inspection will review the license for 90 days from the moment the application was submitted. Then the applicant must receive a permit to open a specific site. For this purpose the applicant must submit the plan for the prospective site, the documents that confirm the right of ownership of the site, the plan for the development of the facility and the permit from the local authorities, among other documents. The Inspection will also approve the managers of the casino or the other types of gambling establishments. Payment for the license will depend on the type of games and sites. So, the operator pays for a total of two licenses: for the operation as a whole and for opening the site. The operator also pays for each gaming item installed on the site. Payments vary in the following range:
- Common license for all types of games - 427,000 EUR one-time fee when issued
- License for running a casino - 28,460 EUR annually
- Permit for running a gambling hall or a bingo hall - 4,270 EUR
- License for bookmaking and betting - 42,690 EUR
Operators pay tax for each piece of gaming equipment on an annual basis:
- For each roulette table - 17,279 EUR
- For a table for a card or dice game - 17,279 EUR
- For a slot machine - 3,141 EUR
- Bookmaking and betting - 15% of the company's profit
- Bingo - 10% from the organiser
- Online games of any kind - 15% of the operator's profit
Licensed varieties of gambling
Latvian law lists the following types of games as being legal: Slot machines,Roulette games, Card games, Dice, Betting, Bookmaking, Bingo and Gambling games available via phone. The rules of the game are determined by the operator and then submitted to the Inspection for endorsement. The document must describe the game process and other information in detail: information about the operator, amounts of bets, conditions for winning a prize etc. The same list of lawful games applies to online operators as well: RTP (Return to Player) for online games must be at least 80% of all bets that have ever been placed. Latvian players prefer slot machines. The proceeds from slot machines in 2016 was 182 million EUR or 83% of the entire gross gambling revenue. Online gambling is ranked second and table games in casinos are ranked third.
Development of Gambling Market in Latvia
Latvia does not have that many developers of gaming software, yet many major developers have their offices in Latvia. BetConstruct and Evolution Gaming, for example, have their development studios in Riga. As far as Latvian developers are concerned, there is a company called DLV that has been in existence since 1994. The company manufactures gaming equipment for land-based casinos and mostly targets the local market. The Gambling industry in Latvia has been undergoing quite a successful development, and for a country as small as this, profits from casinos are quite substantial. Yet at the same time, online casinos have been experiencing some difficulties and are now mainly receding into the grey market. It is a know fact that remote gambling takes up most of the profits over time. If Latvia fails to mitigate its legislation in one way or another, the country is risking missing out on some major profits.