Latvia’s Decision to Stop Online Gambling During COVID-19 Outbreak Sees Legal Challenge

In Latvia, the governor decided to suspend online gambling in the region due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This decision was not taken lightly by operators and Optibet has now filed a legal challenge against the move. The operator is licensed in Latvia and has filed an appeal to see the decision overturned.

Optibet has taken their challenge to the Constitutional Court, stating the Article 9 law that was approved in March has nothing to do with the virus and it puts the population at risk. According to the company’s Baltic chief Dainis Niedra, the ban will impact locals who have self-excluded in the country as they will now seek out gaming at international sites, those who do not fall under the regulation of the Lotteries and Gambling Supervision Inspectorate.

According to Enlabs AB, the parent company of Optibet, the legislation does not exclude SJSC Latvijas Loto, the state-owned operator who has a monopoly regarding online lottery games. The company claims the exclusion should be considered illegal state aid based on the rules of the European Union.

Claims have been made that around 850 retail outlets are still offering lottery games and they are being promoted on television. Because of this, it puts doubts in the idea that the state’s claims are true in regard to stopping online gambling as a way to protect citizens from unnecessary spending in excessive amounts during the outbreak.

According to the company, the government had plenty of other ways they could try to help the public aside from cutting the online gambling sector altogether.

For now, Optibet is counting on their appeal being approved. If it is rejected by the court, then the company will be able to move on to see their case heard in the Court of Justice of the European Union. Only time will tell as to what will happen in this case.

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