Latvian Gaming Laws
Casino gambling, online gambling and lotteries are all legal in Latvia. For a country as small as Latvia is, it houses an impressive number of casinos. Some of these Latvian casinos are businesses with a few slot machines, while others offer both slots and the most popular table games in the world. A surprising number of casinos in Latvia offer Texas Holdem tables, and one or two even offer games of Omaha.
Casinos in Latvia
About two-thirds of the gambling houses in Latvia are found in the capital city of Riga. Most Latvian casinos include only slot machines and appeal to tourists and visitors looking to fill a couple of hours.
Latvian Casinos List
Casinos in Riga
There are 32 casinos in Riga alone. I included a separate list of casinos in Riga, so readers would find them easily. Once again, many of these casinos simply have slot machines, though a larger percentage of Riga casinos offer table games, including many different variations of poker.
Below are the thirty-two casinos currently found in Riga.
Lottery in Latvia
The National Lottery of Latvia is controlled by Latvijas Lotto, whose website can be found at http://www.latlotto.lv/.
Latvijas Lotto has been around since 1972, well back into the days that Latvia was part of the Soviet Union. From 1972 to 1993, though, Latvijas Loto was only a part of Sojuzsportloto, and helped organize smaller lotteries like the Sportloto and the Sprints instant lotteries. In 1993, Latvijas Lotto held the first truly national Latvian National Lottery.
The Latvian Loto was actually handled manually until 1996, when EssNet won a contract to help streamline the Latvijas Lotto games. EssNet is based out of Stockholm, Sweden, and it administers lotteries in countries throughout Europe, Australia, South American and even one or two nations in the Middle East.
One source claims that a second Latvian lottery exists, one by the name of Admiralus Klubs. This would presumably be linked to the prominent Admiralu Klub in Riga, though I haven't found a second source for this assertion.
Internet Gambling in Latvia
Online gambling is legal in Latvia. Gambling websites licensed to take Latvian customers must pay a 10% interactive gambling tax on all revenues. This law was approved in 2003.
Latvia Gambling Laws
Saeima (the Latvian Parliament) considered changing the gambling laws of Latvia in 2003 to make it more restricted. According to government sources, Latvia had seen a stark rise in gambling machine halls from 2002 to 2003, when the reported number went up from 218 to 441. Most of these operations must have been quite small, given that they are not recorded in any official reports.
The Saeima considered raising the tax on slot machines, making them unprofitable for many vendors. Also, the new law would have made it illegal to place slot machines in markets, shops, airports and other mass transit stations, like bus stations and railway stations. This would account for those hundreds of unreported venues.
Also, the law would have raised the maximum number of slot machines a business must have, to decrease the number of gambling operations in Latvia. This would put out the mom-and-pop gaming halls and bingo halls, leaving only the large casinos in business.
This laws may well have passed, which might explain why the number of casino operators are now around 50 instead of 400. Either way, the Latvian Parliament's deliberations show that many Latvians have ambivalent attitudes about the size of the gambling industry in Latvia.
Latvia is one of the Baltic Republics, along with Lithuania and Estonia. These tiny states along the eastern Baltic coast have long been under the influence of larger powers, most notably Russia. Latvia gained a measure of independence between World War I and World War II, but was annexed into the Soviet Union by Stalin in 1940.
Latvia gained independence from Russia in 1991, the same year it joined the United Nations. Russia removed its last occupying troops in 1994, though the 30% Russian minority in Latvia remains a source of tension. Concerns about discrimination against ethnic Russians have created occasional tensions between Latvia and Russia.
Latvia has since joined the World Trade Organization, though its major ambitions were realized when Latvia joined both NATO and the European Union in 2004. Latvians hope that EU membership will help the Latvian economy, while the NATO alliance is meant to provide protection from Russian dominance of the Baltic States.
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