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Betting in Latvia

Published on: 01/02/2016

Since 1991, when it parted from Soviet Union rule, the Republic of Latvia has been an independent Baltic state. The country is run by a democratic parliament, and in 2004, they became a member of the European Union and NATO. Latvia currently has a population of approximately 2.2 million people. The language widely spoken is Latvian and the national currency is the Lats.

Throughout the years, the national lottery (aka Latvujas Loto) has continued to be popular in Latvia. This gambling game was founded in 1972 to supplement the Soviet arranged Sportloto known as Sojuzsportloto. Latvia created its own 5/35 lottery in 1993, after which, the Latvijas Loto was changed to a state-run organisation. A Swedish organization called EssNet AB helps to administrate an online lottery service.

The 5/35 lotto is drawn every Saturday and Wednesday and tickets are available from thousands of venues throughout the country, and also via the internet on the Latvijas Loto web site. The site offers information in several languages such as English and Russian as well as the national dialect of Latvian. KENO is a more recent type of lottery, which started in 2001. Draws are held every day, excluding Sundays and public holidays.

In the 1950s, Latvia’s capital city Riga was home to the Hippodrome horse racing venue. At the time, it was the country’s largest horseracing track. Unfortunately, the establishment was destroyed by a fire in 1965, after which, all sports betting was banned until Latvia became a Republic in 1991.

Eventually, a company called Teletoto was granted a licence to provide the citizens with sportsbooks. Teletoto then founded Latbet and Optibet, and as a partnership they currently organise more than 20 bookies, mainly located in Riga. Handball, ice hockey, basketball and football are the main sports for gambling in the country.

Since the turn of the century, casinos have become more prominent. Currently over 30 venues exist throughout the nation, many of which can be found in Riga. The Olympic Entertainment Group manages half of them via the Olympic Casino Brand.

Towns such as Valmiera, Ventspils, Jurmala, Jelgava, Daugavpils, Liepaja, Cesis, Sigulda and Saldus are all home to gambling venues. Some casinos have a limited number of game machines available, others offer slot machines as well as Blackjack and Roulette tables. More casinos are starting to introduce Omaha and Texas Hold’em gambling tables.

In the early 21st century, Latvia’s Parliament (Saeima) proposed to make the countries gambling regulations stricter due to the number of illegal casinos that appeared in the space of a single year. New laws were put into place, increasing games machine taxes and prohibiting the instillation of such facilities in shops, markets, and transport depots.

In the same year, Saeima re-assessed internet gambling and decided to make the activity legal. This entailed the need for licences and applied 10% tax on profits gained via Latvian internet betting web sites. In actual fact, Latvia was one of the first countries in Europe to legally allow wagering through the internet. The opening up of the market in this way has proven to of been a huge advantage for the nation, attracting great interest to its dot-LV sites. In addition to this success, Riga rapidly mastered casino game broadcasting and thus becoming the world’s biggest “live dealer” provider.

Evolution was the first organization to set up a live dealer shop in Latvia. The company arranged gambling websites alongside actual live video feeds controlled by real dealers. It was not long before Evolution was providing well known businesses such as Paddy Power, g casino and Blue Square with their live video feeds. Another gambling company, known as Playtech, arranged their own live dealer operation in Latvia. However the live dealer shops were only granted to licensed foreign based casinos - local bookies were excluded.