Latvia’s Saeima approves draft regulation banning upkeep debtors from playing

The Latvian legislature, the Saeima, has passed a first reading bill banning maintenance debtors from gambling and has scheduled a second reading for January 20th.

The bill, a series of amendments to the Law on the Maintenance Guarantee Fund, would oblige operators to ensure that those who owe maintenance payments are not allowed to gamble in person or online.

To do this, with the help of the Lottery and Gaming Inspectorate, they must match accounts that create an official data display for licensees with the national register of maintenance debtors. Legislators expect this process to be similar to performing a self-exclusion test.

“The restriction is designed to prevent debtors who fail to provide child support from inappropriately spending money on entertainment and hobbies,” the Saeima said.

Lawmakers added that other restrictions on maintenance debtors, such as possession of firearms and certain vehicles, are already in place.

The bill was submitted by the government and has already received approval from the Human Rights and Public Affairs Commission without objection.

If passed and legally signed in second and third readings, the restriction will take effect on April 1st.

In April, Latvia banned all gambling as the country dealt with the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic. It closed land-based venues to limit the spread of the virus while suspending all online licenses.

On June 9, the Saeima passed a law to end the national state of emergency, which allowed online gambling to function again.

In the third quarter of 2020, the Latvian gaming industry achieved sales of EUR 55.2 million, a significant increase compared to the second quarter when the industry dealt with the ban, but by 33.2% compared to the previous year.

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