Gambling advertising has been prohibited in Latvia for over 17 years. But a survey conducted by Latvian Radio revealed that the gambling advertising ban is unenforced, and commercials promoting gambling and sports betting platforms appear on TV channels registered outside the country as well as domestic and international websites.
The Latvian Advertising Association explained that the ban is only formal and monitoring its enforcement is impossible because the Internet develops. Officials noted that the gambling advertising ban should be updated as it proves to be ineffective at the moment.
A Gambling Advertising Ban Could Nurture the Illegal Market
Although Latvia is among the few countries which implemented a blanket ban on gambling advertising, gambling commercials are still visible on TV channels and the Internet. Elīna Brila, a psychologist for the Lotteries and Gambling Supervisory Inspection, explained that gambling ads often lead to gambling addiction relapse. She also noted that since operators have started promoting their products, they must have experienced a decline in the number of their customers.
Kaspars Rāzna, a representative of the Latvian Interactive Gambling Society, said that it is not illegal for international media to display gambling commercials. She added that if no Latvian operators advertise their services, the advertising space would be used by other operators licensed in foreign jurisdictions, which would enhance the gray market. She added that the Estonian model, under which gambling advertising is allowed in limited places and time, could work well in Latvia.
In a written statement, the Latvian Interactive Gambling Society explained that an absolute ban on gambling advertising does not make the market safer because licensed operators are not allowed to advertise their products. On the other hand, illegal gambling sites, which do not even offer responsible gambling tools and take into account the country’s self-exclusion register, comply with the ban. Thus, Latvian consumers see ads for offshore gambling and sports betting websites instead of safe and regulated platforms.
Official Recommend the Ban to Be Revised
The Latvian Interactive Gambling Society noted that the state-owned capital company Latvijas Loto, which holds a monopoly over the lottery market, is exempt from the gambling advertising ban. Although the industry considers this unfair, the Ministry of Finance has explained that the Latvijas Loto is not a gambling organizer.
The Latvian Advertising Association said that the gambling advertising ban had been implemented 17 years ago when the Internet was still in its infancy. Now, the ban is only formal, and many operators use different channels to advertise their gambling services. Baiba Liepiņa, head of the association, explained that technology is designed to connect people, and despite the fact that Latvian media cannot broadcast gambling ads, Latvian consumers still see such commercials. She noted that tracking the source of advertising is nearly impossible. Liepiņa confirmed that the gambling ban should be updated because it is ineffective.
Signe Birne, the head of the Lotteries and Gambling Supervisory Inspection, shared Liepiņa’s opinion and added that the process of amending the gambling advertising ban would take some time because those who can do something about it find it difficult to make decisions. She noted that in 2014, the European Commission had adopted a recommendation, according to which any merchant who operates a legal business can advertise their products.