Land-based gambling has been legalized and regulated in many countries around the world many years ago. But the story is different for online gambling. Not all markets that have regulated land-based gambling have also regulated online gambling. In fact, it was only in recent years that regulated markets started considering legalizing online gambling, after seeing the demand for it, and after seeing the interest of both onshore and offshore operators.
Lithuania is a perfect example of a country that regulated online gambling just a few years ago. While land-based gambling, to some extent, was regulated, the country had to go through years of preparations to launch online gambling. However, it managed to do it in 2016, even though updates and changes to the legislative law continue to the present day.
History of Gambling in Lithuania
The first time Lithuania looked into online gambling regulation was in 2010 when the government suggested it should be based on the Estonian model. And while preparations were in order, the Vilnius regional court decided that ISA should order ISPs to block access of unlicensed offshore sites in Lithuania. ISPs challenged the Vilnius’ decision on the grounds that it was ineffective, and the decision was upheld.
Then, the government in 2013 approved amendments to the Gambling Act. The official gambling regulation was expected in 2014, although now we know it happened 2 years later. The government suggested at this time regulation that would include restrictions such as prevention requirements, and daily player time and betting limits. This is when the European Commission sent a letter of formal notice regarding the gambling legislation in 2013.
In 2014 Lithuania notified the European Commission of the changes in the Gambling Bill, which would regulate commercial online gambling. The bill stated that any offshore operator who wanted to apply for a license should have an onshore presence and pay a minimum share capital of LTL4 million.
After a critical detailed opinion by the European Commission on Lithuania’s proposed legislation for operators to have a land-based gambling license and a Plc. in Lithuania, or at least a branch under Lithuanian company law, in 2015, President Grybauskaitė, amended the legislation stating that interactive gambling may be operated and organized only by operators that hold a license by the Lithuanian Gaming Control Authority.
Moreover, the Gambling Supervision Service was given the power to take legal action and block illegal gambling supplying in Lithuania, and as of the 1st of January, 2016, Lithuania regulated online gambling for the first time in history.
This is the year the first casino and betting licenses were issued in Lithuania, but also when the first blacklist appeared. The Gaming Control Authority signed an agreement with ESSA, the sports betting integrity body to share information and combat corruption in sport this year, too.
In 2018, the Ministry of Finance proposed an amendment to the Gambling Law, with the aim to impose strict restrictions on gambling advertising, following the example of other regulated markets. By 2019, the new gambling advertising restrictions were enforced.