History of Gambling in Latvia

Latvia was one of the first countries in the post-Soviet space where a law on gambling was adopted. Gambling has been regulated in the Baltic States since 1994. For more than 25 years of the civilized existence of the gambling business, its structure has changed several times. This was due to the development of information technology, the adoption of new legislative norms and the adjustment of tax rates. If in the first years of the existence of legal gambling in the country land-based casinos were actively opened, now investors are more willing to invest in the development of networks of gambling halls and in the online segment.

Gambling in Latvia after the collapse of the Soviet Union

Латвийская ССР заявила о выходе из состава Советского Союза в начале мая 1990 года. Закон о суверенном статусе был принят 21 августа 1991-го. В первые годы отказа от плановой экономики в стране стал активно развиваться частный бизнес. На рынке появились первые предприниматели, которые занимались организацией азартных игр. Сначала это были зарубежные компании, которые уже имели опыт работы в сфере гемблинга в других странах.

The first casino was opened in the beginning of 1990 in the Riga Hotel.

Its founder was a company from Sweden Gletea International. Only 4 slot machines, one blackjack table and French roulette were installed in a small hall. Competitors at this institution appeared only in 1991 - Casino Latvia and Terminal. Each boasted several tables for roulette and card games, as well as two dozen slot machines.

Гостиница Riga
The Riga Hotel in the center of the Latvian capital became the location of the first casino

The owners of the first casinos worked in rapidly changing conditions. The rules were established by the provisions of the general law on entrepreneurship. Licensing issues were dealt with by local governments, the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Ministry of Finance, and the amount of income tax reached 65%. In 1993, at the state level, it was decided that it was necessary to streamline the emerging gambling industry. Work has begun on the preparation of a separate law.

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The First Gambling Law

On June 16, 1994, the law "On Lotteries and Gambling" was adopted in Latvia, which determined the further development of the gambling business . The financial side of the issue, concerning the taxation of operators, was fixed in a separate document.

The hastily drafted law turned out to be a framework one. He defined gambling, designated the area of ​​responsibility of operators and the regulator, and clarified licensing issues. But in general, it was raw and required significant adjustments. Even the clause on the age limit for players appeared in the document a little over a year later. The amendments adopted in September 1995 allowed access to gambling entertainment only to persons over the age of 18. At the same time, detailed requirements for equipment were outlined: the casino had to accommodate at least two card tables and one roulette table, and at least 10 slot machines in the slot machine room.

In the autumn of 1995, representatives of the professional community, who united under the auspices of the Latvian Gambling Business Association, officially joined in the development of recommendations for further changes in legislation. The conditions for working on the market have become more transparent.

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The rapid development of business in the late 1990s

At the initial stage, representatives of the gambling business relied on the creation casinos that were designed for wealthy guests and offered a high level of service. It was assumed that customers would spend a long time playing the game. Since the mid-1990s, the focus of entrepreneurs has shifted towards vending machines. They were designed not only for regular players, but also for casual visitors. And their creation required less financial outlays. This was also due to the fact that the popularity of “one-armed bandits” was rapidly growing in the country.

Игровые аппараты
The end of the 1990s was marked by an explosive growth in the popularity of gambling parlors designed for the middle class

In 1994 about 1000 slot machines were registered in Latvia, in 1996 - 2000, in 1997 - 6000, in 1998 - 7500, in 1999 - more than 9500. By the end of the millennium, 24 casinos and 179 gaming salons.

The authorities were constantly increasing the tax on equipment. They several times made mutually exclusive decisions on the redistribution of deductions between the local and state budgets. At the same time, the tax was fully levied only in the capital. Reducing coefficients were introduced for other cities:

  • Jurmala, Liepaja, Ventspils — the approved rate minus 10%;
  • Daugavpils, Jelgava, Rezekne — 20%;
  • остальные латвийские города — 30%;
  • other settlements and territories - 40%.

The annual license fee by 2001 was 50,000 lats ($80,000) for casinos and gaming parlors and 30,000 (48,000) for bookmakers and sweepstakes.

For twenty years the Republic of Lithuania has been following the path of a civilized development of the gambling business, fixed by the standards of the European Union. But it was not always so. In the mid-1990s, gambling was considered illegal in the country, and discussions about the legalization of gambling caused fierce controversy. The state succeeded…Read more
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Legislative changes in the mid-2000s

For 10 years of the first law of change it was entered 14 times. Despite this, the provisions of the document were sharply criticized by the professional community and representatives of public organizations. In 2005, after Latvia joined the EU, the authorities decided to completely revise the law and bring the principles stated in it closer to the European approach to state regulation of gambling.

The new document "On gambling and lotteries" was adopted on November 17, 2005, all its provisions came into force on January 1, 2006.

The main provisions of the new law

The law adopted in 2005 is still in force in Latvia and has already undergone several revisions, but its basic principles remain unchanged.

  • Gambling includes card games, roulette, dice, bingo, slot machines, bets in bookmakers and sweepstakes. Separately, the rules for organizing and conducting lotteries are stipulated.
  • Gambling entertainment can be carried out throughout the country and is available to adult citizens only in casinos, specialized salons, bingo halls, as well as in betting or betting shops, subject to availability from the organizer of the corresponding license. The permit is issued with the obligation to re-obtain it once a year. The cost of obtaining a license and its re-registration is determined by a separate law.
  • Online casinos and sports betting on the Internet are recognized as legal if the operator has the appropriate license.
  • Gambling establishments cannot be located in state institutions , medical, educational and cultural institutions. As well as in markets, railway stations, airports, shops and residential buildings.
  • Regulatory functions in the gambling market are entrusted to be performed by the Inspection for the Supervision of Lotteries and Gambling.
  • The operator has the right to become officially a company registered in the Republic of Latvia with an authorized capital of at least EUR 1.4 million. The share of foreign capital cannot exceed 49%, except in cases where the investments are owned by residents from the European Union.
  • At least 10 gaming tables must be installed in each land-based casino if the establishment is located in Riga, and not less than 5 - in other cities. There must be at least 20 slot machines in the slot machine room.
  • Owners of land-based gambling establishments and online casinos are required to identify customers and maintain appropriate registers. Winnings up to 720 euros are paid immediately, from 720 to 14,300 - within a day, exceeding 14,300 - within 30 calendar days.
  • Clients have the right to apply for exclusion from the list of persons who are allowed access to gambling, for a period of 1 year.
  • The return of slot machines in land-based halls, as well as electronic roulette and other table games in online casinos, cannot fall below 80%.
  • Advertising is prohibited gambling entertainment outside the profile establishments.
Памятка о самоисключении
A leaflet from the Latvian gambling regulator with a scheme for the operation of the self-exclusion mechanism for players

Under the new law, the regulator has the right to directly influence the operation of gambling establishments through the procedure for approving the identity of the manager of a casino, hall or bingo parlor. Even greater attention was paid to the financial condition of the company and the origin of funds invested in its authorized capital when considering the application for a license. This was done in order to cut off unscrupulous entrepreneurs suspected of attempting to launder funds.

Gambling regulation by economic mechanisms

The main obstacle for representatives of the gambling business in Latvia was not bureaucratic red tape, but rather a high financial exit threshold To the market. If in 1995 the annual fee for any license was 40,000 lats ($72,000), then already in 2001 there was a separation of permits by types of organized entertainment, and the amount of the fee increased significantly. The initial fee for opening a casino was 300,000 lats (480,000 dollars), and for renewal of the license it was necessary to pay 50,000 (80,000) annually.

Latvian transition to the single European currency led to a revision of gambling business. In 2015, the cost of permission to open casinos and halls with the right to conduct gambling entertainment on the Internet was 427,000 euros, and only for online casinos - 200,000. The fee for the annual renewal of the license was set at 37,000. Since then, these figures remained unchanged, but the size of the annual fee for each piece of gambling equipment increased.

EquipmentTax in 2015, euroTax in 2020, euro 950
Рулетка, карточный стол, кости18,00028,080
Slot machine32045172

In addition, an annual gambling fee was charged from each object: 30,000 euros from a casino, 4,500 from a slot machine hall and a bingo parlor, 2000 from a bookmaker's office or sweepstakes. Income tax for specialized establishments and bookmakers was set at 15%, for lotteries, bingo parlors and online casinos - 10%.

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The current state of the Latvian gambling industry

At the end of 2020, 4 casinos were officially registered in the territory of the Republic of Latvia, 305 slot machine halls, 77 betting shops and 1 bingo parlour. Of the 19 licensed companies, 15 have the right to organize any kind of gambling entertainment. Only 4 operators have acquired permission exclusively to create online casinos and interactive sports betting services. In March, and then in November 2020, the work of all land-based gambling establishments was temporarily suspended due to restrictions due to the spread of the coronavirus infection.

Зал Fenikss
In 2020, the Latvian Saeima twice suspended the operation of land-based gambling establishments from due to the COVID-19 pandemic

Land-based casinos in Latvia

All Latvian casinos are located in the capital: Kazino 777 (owned by NB), Olympic Voodoo (Olympic Casino Latvia), SL Casino Riga (Storm Latvia) and a gambling establishment in the five-star Royal Casino SPA & Hotel Resort (Niks). The last two are designed for the most demanding customers.

SL Casino Riga belongs to the well-known Shangri La network, managed by Storm International Group (which also owns casinos in Minsk, Yerevan and Tbilisi). The gambling establishment is located in the five-star Grand Hotel Kempinski in the center of Riga opposite the National Opera House. The casino has American roulette, several poker and blackjack tables, and modern video slots. There is a VIP room for high rollers, a sports bar and a dining area, dress code applies.

SL Casino Riga
SL Casino Riga main hall with gaming tables

Royal Casino Spa & Hotel Resort is recognized as the most largest entertainment center in the Baltic States. It consists of a hotel, casino, concert hall, nightclubs Studio 69, Black Square, Tutti Frutti, restaurant and bar. It has been operating since 2000 and is located a 10-minute drive from the Old Town. Poker tournaments are regularly held in the casino, and 39 slot machines are installed for fans of video slots with bets ranging from 1 euro cent to 100 euros. Slot machines are connected to a single jackpot system.

Royal Casino
Luxury casino interiors at the Royal Casino SPA & Hotel Resort

Latvian slot machine halls

There are several large networks of gambling halls. The most influential gambling companies from this segment are part of well-known international concerns.

Fenikss Laimētava

The largest chain of gaming salons in Latvia is owned by Alfor and operates under the Fenikss Laimētava brand. More than 100 operator rooms operate in Riga, Jurmala, Valmiera, Jelgava, Jekabpils, Cesis, Liepaja, Daugavpils and other cities. At one time, the Alfor company, which is part of the Austrian concern Novomatic Group, absorbed the limited liability company Admiralu Klubs, which owned the rights to the Admiral gambling brand popular in the Baltic countries.


Компании Joker принадлежат более 60 одноименных игровых клубов по всей стране: 16 в Риге, 6 в Лиепае, по 4 в Вентспилсе и Даугавпилсе, 3 в Елгаве, по 2 в Талси, Балви, Валмиере, Екабпилсе, Резекне и в других городах. Владельцы раскрученного бренда активно развивают букмекерское направление под вывеской SynotTip.


The first Olympic Casino clubs appeared in Latvia in the mid-1990s, when Olympic Casino Group Baltija, founded by Estonian entrepreneur Armin Karu actively explored the market of the Baltic countries. In 2002, Olympic Casino Latvia took over the Latvian operator Casino Daugava, in 2005 - Baltic Gaming, in 2013 - Altea, and in 2015 - Garkalns. In 2018, the entire corporation was bought out by the European concern Odyssey Europe. Now Olympic Casino Latvia includes about 50 slot machine halls and sports bars under the OlyBet brand.


More than 40 halls under the Zilais Dimants and Dimants Z signs belong to a major Latvian gambling developer DLV games. The same company owns the only bingo parlor left in the country. As an operator of gaming clubs, DLV installs devices of its own production in the halls, as well as video slots from IGT, Novomatic, WMS and other companies.

Zilais Dimants
In small towns, Zilais Dimants clubs are located in very modest pavilions


A network of 25 slot machines under the Klondike brand belongs to Furors. Most clubs are located in Riga and Jurmala; 1189

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Large gambling companies that own land-based gambling establishments are actively investing in the development of online casinos: Fenikss, Klondaika, Casino777, SynotTip, OlyBet, WinGuru. Almost all of them have a Russian-language interface, and deposits are accepted in euros by default.

On the basis of a Latvian license, bookmakers OptiBet, BetSafe, PafBet, LVBet provide their services on the Internet, which have recently placed slot machines and roulettes on their websites , card and table gambling. Limez online casino, owned by the Latvian company of the same name, stands apart. The operator only has permission to organize interactive games, there is no section with sports betting on the site. And the most famous online casino with a Latvian license has recently been Mr.Green.

The regulator is actively fighting the dominance of illegal gambling sites. A register of prohibited Internet resources that illegally provide Latvian users with access to entertainment for money has been maintained in the country since 2014. By the beginning of 2021, over 2,000 domains of online casinos, bookmakers, poker rooms and their mirrors were added to the list.

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Main trends in the development of gambling in Latvia

Since the beginning of the 2010s, the country has seen a decrease in the number of land-based gambling establishments, and since 2015 there has been a surge in investor interest in the development of the online segment. After the entry into force of the new law, the worst result in terms of net profit in the industry was recorded in 2010 - about 114 million euros. At the end of 2019, the same figure exceeded 307 million, of which almost 55 million came from online casinos. In 2020, the net profit of operators sank significantly due to restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Gambling and Lottery Control Inspectorate closely monitors the actions of gambling companies in the market. It sets the most stringent requirements for adherence to the principles of responsible entertainment. Attention to the issues of self-exclusion of users and blocking of illegal sites is intensifying against the backdrop of growing discontent in society about the excessive availability of gambling in large cities and in the Internet space. In such a situation, the population supports the course taken by the state to increase taxes for the gambling business.

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Richard "Boz" Bosworth is the main partner and CEO of the young company JC Hospitality, LLC ...
Position: Author of analytical materials Higher education Age: 24 years old Experience: more than 5 years Brief biography: Born on March 24, 1997 in the city of Volkhov, Leningrad Region. In 2015, he successfully graduated from secondary school, after which he entered the Faculty of Mechanics and Mathematics...
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