Latvia strikes down on Riga gambling ban

The Constitutional Court of Latvia has ruled that commercial restrictions imposed by the municipality of Riga on licensed gambling venues are unlawful.

Latvia’s judiciary was ordered to intervene and review the plans of the Council of Riga to shut down 139 gambling venues operating in the capital city.

The order was authorised by the city’s council, which approved a decree to strengthen Riga’s “Security, Order and Corruption Prevention” measures.

City councilor Linda Ozola endorsed the measures, as protection for “80,000 Riga residents vulnerable to problem gambling.”

An appeal was immediately submitted by the gambling firms of Alfors, Olympic Casino Latvia, Joker Ltd, and Admiral Klubs, whose venues were ordered to be shut down.

Had the order been implemented, gambling in Riga would have been solely allocated to the premises of four-and-five-star hotels.

Latvian judges were ordered to review the Council’s rationale for imposing commercial restrictions on gambling venues, which had been ordered to shut down by 2025.

The court deemed that municipalities have the right to impose gambling restrictions within their boundaries. However, Riga’s council had bypassed key requirements and technicalities to implement the order to shut down gambling venues.

As detailed by Latvian media, “The Court concluded that Riga’s municipality failed to adequately justify the exclusion of gambling from the functional zoning in its spatial plan, where commercial activity is deemed one of the permissible uses of the territory.”

Significantly, the Court deemed that the Riga Council had breached constitutional law protecting the contractual rights of merchants of gambling venues who had been authorised permits by the City Council.

Latvian operators have argued that since 2018, Riga’s council had shut down 48 gambling venues without adequate rationale or authorisation.

Prior to the judgment, the Latvian Gambling Business Association claimed that these actions violated merchants’ rights, including the principle of legitimate expectations and the rights of foreign investors to participate in Latvia’s economy.