Online betting of any sort has always had a dedicated fan base in Lithuania. But is it on the decline or does it have a bright future ahead? Let’s see what the numbers say.
Enter 2016, the breakthrough year for Lithuania’s gambling market
In the year of 2016, a major shift occurred in the Lithuanian iGaming sector, namely, the introduction of the 2016 Gaming Law. As a result, the country’s online casino types of products started tipping the scales of popularity, thus becoming the local operators’ primary source of revenue.
The period between 2016 and 2019 was incredibly lucrative for the Lithuanian iGaming sector. At that point in time, the revenue sourced from online gaming almost tripled. Statistical data suggests Lithuania had a GGR of more than 40m EUR in 2019. The very same year, Lithuania reported a 44.5% year-on-year growth.
Online vs. land-based casinos
In terms of GGR generated, online casinos in Lithuania performed quite well in 2019, amassing nearly 24m EUR. Online slots turned out to be the most popular gaming product by far, bringing in more than 15m EUR.
In the land-based casino space, once again, slot machines took the lion’s portion of the share, with a revenue of almost 45m EUR. Tables and betting shops followed closely in its trails, with 16.7m EUR and 10.6m EUR in revenue, respectively.
The impact of 2020
Due to the lockdowns, the Lithuanian gambling market dipped by 8.1% and land-based revenues decreased by 39.5%. Not even the national lottery was spared, having to endure a 6.7% decrease in year-on-year sales.
As one can imagine, the online iGaming space was unaffected by the whole ordeal. In fact, 2020 had a reverse effect on it – the iGaming sphere grew by 47.1%, bringing in 59.6m EUR in GGR. Online slots, in particular, managed to hit the 29.4m EUR mark. Impressively, online table games saw a whopping 350% increase in revenue, bringing the total revenue to 1.9m EUR.
The recent crackdown on unlicensed gambling operators
During the past three years, the Lithuanian authorities have started to massively crack down on non-regulated offshore operators, making it harder to fight for their share of the market. Gambling Supervision Service, the Lithuanian gambling authority, estimates that around 6m EUR in unpaid fees and taxes has been lost to these offshore providers in the recent years.
In response, the authorities started going after unlicensed online gambling websites, issuing several warnings and getting their web addresses blacklisted. In 2021, several amendments to Lithuanian gambling laws ensued, including a blanket ban on gambling ads.
2021 was the year of banning all gambling-related advertising
In May 2021, the Lithuanian government took a strict stance on any and all forms of advertising having to do with gambling. Apart from ads, the ban also applies to typical run-of-the-mill welcome promotions aimed at attracting new players.
As unexpected as the move may seem, the underlying reasoning of the government is that they wanted to put a hold on problem gambling due to the general rise of addiction, a trend that started surfacing shortly after the first series of lockdowns.
What’s even more surprising is that not only did the operators not listen – they even upped their spending on gambling ads. The National Gambling and Gaming Business Association joined the rebellion by criticizing the government’s gambling ban, claiming how it makes it harder for new operators from getting their foot in the door and entering the market.
Upcoming changes to the licensing system
As of right now, any operator that wishes to run a land-based gambling establishment in Lithuania needs to apply for a license, with further permits required for offering online gambling services. In other words, to offer online betting, a traditional brick and mortar shop is required (there are further requirements on how many of each slot machines, for example, need to be operational).
In 2021, a new approach to licensing was presented, with the core idea being the separation of online and land-based licenses. Under the newly-proposed terms, one would not be a requirement for the other (and vice-versa). Furthermore, the focus would also be placed on attracting foreign investors.
The Lithuanian iGaming sector is alive and kicking and it’s unlikely to go anywhere soon. Although the recent ban on gambling ads and the crackdown on unlicensed operators have made things harder from a business standpoint, the demand is there, and Lithuanian gambling enthusiasts face no shortage of options.