The Lotteries and Gambling Supervision Inspectorate, the Latvian regulator announced that it will reopen gambling venues. This was after the COVID-19 pandemic forced the government to implement tough restrictions and land-based gambling spots countrywide were affected.
Latvian gaming venues including casinos, betting shops, and gaming halls are set to reopen. Gaming venues have been closed for seven months following the COVID-19 pandemic containment measures.
The Latvian gambling regulator, The Lotteries and Gambling Supervision Inspectorate, announced that the facilities will be allowed to resume work but on several conditions. Chief among the conditions is abiding by COVID-19 rules that include limiting sitting and overall capacity as well as social distancing.
According to the regulator, these venues will be allowed to open from 6 am to 10 pm. This timeframe will remain in place until the Latvian government relaxes the rules associated with the pandemic.
Gambling venues shut down for the second time on April 6. The first time the venues shut down was on November 9 when the country went into a partial lockdown. As a result, the government banned gambling in its entirety.
In fact, six licensees had their licenses revoked by the Riga City Council after they breached urban planning rules. According to the City Council, the venues were in protected historic zones and in residential areas. They only reopened on June 9, with the reopening closing the curtains on the second closure.
Egils Levits, the Latvian president, signed the original version of the emergency COVID-19 bill that left iGaming in limbo. According to the signed bill, lotteries and gambling are prohibited apart from the instant, numerical, and interactive lotteries.
Having said that, the bill contradicts itself by stating that The Lotteries and Gambling Supervisory Authority can suspend licenses for physical gambling venues, electronic communication services, and/or via interactive media.
The Lotteries and Gambling Supervisory Authority legal department director, Janis Ungurs later shed more light on the matters, saying that all online gambling platforms are obliged to stop operations.
Numbers from the latest report released by the government on 16 June showed 11 COVID-19 related fatalities and 156 new infections.
Casinos as well as other gaming venues are slowly reopening across various European countries. Bingo halls, adult gaming spots, and lad-based casinos reopened in Wales, Scotland, and England. This was on May 17, 2021. Spain, Cyprus, France, and Denmark are among other countries that are slowly easing restrictions around the pandemic to allow casinos to reopen.
According to the European Casino Association (ECA), the land-based sector has suffered deep losses due to restrictions occasioned by the pandemic. In a press release, the Association said that the land-based casinos remained closed for 136 days last year, with the majority of the establishments unable to resume duties in 2021.
Data from the ECA revealed that these establishments lost at least 37% of their normal operating days in 2020. Furthermore, 70% of these casinos stayed shut during this period, occasioning revenue slumps of over 50%.
Before the pandemic, 900 European establishments provided employment to over 70,000 people. However, the post-pandemic numbers are set to drop to 50,000. As a result, the Association is calling for all hands on deck by stakeholders.