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Riga's Gambling Market Refuses Slot Halls in Favor of Respectable Casinos

In 2019, only a few casinos in 4 and 5-star hotels operate on the territory of Riga. At the same time, there are several dozen similar hotel complexes, and the state supports the operation of gambling halls in them. But there are about 200 slot-rooms in the capital of Latvia, and according to the country's leadership, they harm not only the economy, but also ordinary citizens.

In 2017, the city authorities have already decided to close the gambling halls in Riga’s historic center, making then an exception for those located in four- and five-star hotels. Now this ban is planned to extend to the city outskirts.

Riga Mayor Nil Ushakov instructed the Legal Department and the Urban Development Department to prepare the corresponding draft decision of the Riga City Council, which would allow placing gambling halls only in four- and five-star hotels.

“It is clear that the biggest problem with gaming halls is in the outskirts of Riga. It is precisely that the Duma will do everything possible so that Riga will become a city that will be free from this addictive disease, and that Riga’s residents will not suffer from gambling and the negative consequences associated with them,” said Ushakov in a press statement.

The rules adopted in 2017 stipulate that 42 gambling halls will be liquidated in the historic center of Riga within five years. Accordingly, it was exactly that time which was given to enterprises to close a business in this place. However, all companies involved in the process went to court against the Duma.

As a result, in the spring of 2019, the decision to close the gambling halls in the capital was unanimous. However, before voting, deputies of the coalition and the opposition exchanged reproaches for more than an hour. In turn, the coalition deputies said that the opposition, having power in the Sejm and the government, did not do anything with this issue at the state level.

After a unanimous decision to close all the gambling halls, except those that are in four- and five-star hotels, the Legal Department and the City Development Department will have to prepare decisions on the cancellation of gambling halls work permit. These are more than 200 halls, which means more than 200 decisions, each of which must be taken separately. With that being said, all gambling halls will be liquidated not earlier than in 2024.

What will remain in Riga for games fans?

In general, the Latvian government and Riga’s authorities are favorably treated in the casino, which operates by the rules and offers a high level of services. But in 2019 only a few establishments meet these requirements.

One example is SL Casino Riga in Grand Hotel Kempinski opened after restoration. This is one of the best casinos in Riga, part of the Shangri La network, famous in the post-Soviet space since 1992. The establishment works in the VIP niche, managed by Michael Boettcher’s Storm International.

The main SL Casino feature is the highest level of service, fair play, following the rules of “Responsible gaming”, respectable atmosphere. Since its opening, the unit has been focused on foreign visitors from countries where there is no casino.

Since Riga is one of the most beautiful European capitals, the unit is attractive for junket tours fans. Buyers of this service have the opportunity to play their favorite games, and for the price of chips, they additionally receive a lot of bonuses: living in the magnificent Kempinski rooms, free flights and transfers, food and drinks at the highest level. Plus, junket travelers can have guided tours in the capital and its environs, said Darren Keane, Storm International managing director.

Casinos similar to SL are not numerous yet, but by 2024, due to government changes, the situation will change significantly.

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