Latvia: iGaming operators battle suspension

Two iGaming operators have mounted legal challenges.
Two iGaming operators have mounted legal challenges.

Enlabs and Alfor Group have brought court cases in to battle the suspension of gambling licences in Latvia.

Latvia.- Two iGaming operators have taken legal action to battle the suspension of gambling licences in the Baltic country.

Enlabs, which runs Optibet, and the Alfor Group, which is owned by Novomatic and runs Admirāļu Klubs, have each brought legal challenges to Latvia’s constitutional court following the country’s suspension of all iGaming licences.

The suspension of iGaming licences for the period of the Covid-19 pandemic was confirmed last month following confusion around a bill passed in March.

Latvian President Egils Levits signed an emergency Coronavirus bill on March 22 that ordered the closure of all land-based gambling venues but left doubts about the position of iGaming.

The text of the bill prohibited gambling and lotteries “except for interactive gambling, numerical lotteries and instant lotteries,” but also stated that the supervisory authority would suspend licences for “interactive media and/or via electronic communication services”.

The Latvian government confirmed in April that the bill did also cover the suspension of licences for all iGaming providers, but Enlabs and Alfor have each launched a legal battle against the suspension.

They argue that the emergency bill violates Article 105 of the Latvian constitution, which deals with property rights, which they claim includes the right to conduct business, and Article 49 of freedom of establishment in the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU).

Optibet operator Enlabs argued in court that it has been “deprived of the right to conduct commercial activities, namely to organise and earn income from gambling in an interactive environment,” and that the restriction on its ability to do so was “disproportionate to its legitimate aim to deter the society from wasting expenditures.”

The Latvian parliament, the Saeima, has been invited to respond to Enlab’s and Alfor’s cases within two months. 

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