Two places that have recently heeded the advice offered by the Right2Bet campaign are the two Baltic states bordering Russia: Latvia and Estonia. They have capitalised on the ban the Russian Government introduced on gambling last year. Russia now permits gambling (one of the most popular pastimes in the nation) in only a few remote corners of the country.
The tiny countries, with a combined population of around 2.5 million, were once part of the Soviet Union, and still count a significant number of Russians and Russian speakers amongst their population, making it an ideal location to take advantage of tourist trade from the wealthy Western cities of Russia.
Gambling has long been a favoured, legal pastime in Latvia, with the gaming industry there reportedly accounting for $125 million worth of revenue in 2005. However, it is only in the past few weeks that Estonia has relaxed its stance.
Estonia, the northernmost Baltic state, has recently found itself in deep trouble following the global financial downturn. Seeing the revenue streams enjoyed by its Baltic neighbour, and sensing the possible influx of disenchanted Russian gambling tourists, the Government launched a review into the laws surrounding the activity, and recently announced that the country's gambling regulations would go through gradual change. Unlike many other nations which have quickly introduced or withdrawn legalization almost overnight, the Estonian approach will be more long-term, with 2010 seeing citizens and tourists permitted to gamble online or off for the first time… but only with Estonian-registered sports books and casinos.
Normally at Right2bet we would be concerned about this measure, but not in this case. Estonia is going from a near total ban on gambling to a very liberal system; it's only natural that the Government and customers should favour a small ‘learning curve' before they hit 2011, from which point foreign companies will be allowed to enter the market. Neighbours Latvia also manage to remain on top of the game when it comes to countering corruption, despite the claims of many that commercial gambling creates difficulties in this area. Last October saw the Latvian FA suspend and punish Dinaberg FC, as well as the individuals concerned, after two of their employees were caught betting on their own matches by bookmakers. Indeed, it seems that the Latvian regulators take their jobs very seriously and this can only be good for the industry and consumers.
So, Right2bet tips its hat to our Baltic cousins, who seem well-prepared to continue through the ‘cold months' of economic trouble with the help of their gambling industry. Why can't others do the same? The Right2bet petition is available for all to sign at www.right2bet.net. Stand up for your right to bet!
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