Latvia May Allow Gambling Ads Again

May 15, 2023
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Latvia is evaluating the impact that un-banning gambling advertising could have, as it has become “almost impossible” to prevent illegal marketing, according to the regulator.

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Latvia is evaluating the impact that un-banning gambling advertising could have, as it has become “almost impossible” to prevent illegal marketing, according to the regulator.

Jānis Ungurs, the Lotteries and Gambling Supervisory Inspectorate's legal department director, said there have been significant changes to the gambling industry since it limited advertising to only gambling premises in 2006, such as the growth of social media and other internet services.

Ungurs told VIXIO that advertising is still “distributed very widely and the volume is only increasing. For this reason, an evaluation has been started in Latvia on whether to change the complete ban and move towards a strictly regulated environment”.

“There are no data-based facts about the impact of advertising on players and society in Latvia yet (due to the fact that advertising has been banned). Therefore, a process has been launched to carry out a study on how the public and vulnerable people will be affected by the lifting of the advertising ban,” Ungurs said.

Latvia has relied on research from other countries, which it claims mostly confirms that the spread of advertising directly contributes to the risks associated with the development of addiction.

A study conducted by the Latvian Ministry of Health found that approximately 6 percent of the population in the country is at very high risk or already has a detectable addiction to gambling.

“Considering the above, it is necessary to address this problem in Latvia and such an evaluation has been initiated. Although the working group, which includes specialists from several sectors (operators, media, sports industry, education and welfare) and public institutions, has different opinions,” Ungurs said.

The Latvian Interactive Gambling Association (LIAB) argues that the existing ban “is not a proportionate means of protecting consumers”, adding that the country does not have an atypically high level of a gambling problem.

The LIAB argues that the absolute ban on gambling advertising helps the black market, as unlicensed operators do not respect the ban, and it makes gambling more unsafe, as players' access to information on which operators are licensed and safe is very limited.

The trade group said a survey conducted last year found that 71 percent of Latvians could not tell the difference between a licensed site and an illegal one.

The current ban on advertising does not apply to state-owned company Latvijas Loto, which has exclusive rights to organise lotteries, raffles and interactive lotteries.

“A ban on gambling advertising that is not exclusively applied to the state monopoly Latvijas Loto is incompatible with European Union legislation. It distorts competition and places Latvijas Loto in an unjustifiably favorable position compared to other service providers,” LIAB said.

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