Lithuania Cracks Down on Illegal Ads
Following a court confirmation which authorized it to take action, Lithuania’s Gambling Supervisory Authority has fined an employee of a digital media business for placing illegal gambling advertisements on basketball news website Krepšinis.net. The website was found to be hosting gambling ads which are currently prohibited under Lithuanian regulations.
Ads Also Lacked Mandatory Warnings
Lithuania’s main regulatory body that deals with gambling in the country, the Gambling Supervisory Authority, recently revealed that it issued a fine against an employee of a digital media business for running illegal gambling advertisements on basketball news website Krepšinis.net.
The regulatory body proceeded with issuing the fine after a court authorized it to take action against the website and employee.
The basketball news website was found to be hosting gambling advertisements featuring slogans and animated backgrounds, as well as promotional bonuses.
Advertisements of these sorts are strictly prohibited under Lithuanian gambling regulations.
The illegal gambling advertisements which were uncovered on basketball news website Krepšinis.net also failed to provide the mandatory warnings about gambling-related harm, which are now required under Lithuanian law.
Lithuania Made Gambling Ad Warnings Mandatory in February 2020
The regulation of gambling advertising in Lithuania is a relatively recent phenomenon, with the country’s legislature, the Seimas, passing a bill in February 2020 which requires all gambling advertisements to include a warning about gambling-related harm.
The bill itself was an amendment to Article 10 of Lithuania’s gambling laws and was initially brought forth by Mykolas Majauskas of the Homeland Union Lithuanian Christian Democratic Party.
The bill ended up being passed by consensus after no objections were raised at its first reading.
Majauskas saw the bill as an opportunity for Lithuania to follow the example set by many other European Union countries.
Regulator Calls Website “Refuge for Illegal Gambling Advertising”
Following the discovery of illegal gambling advertising on basketball news website Krepšinis.net and the subsequent fining of a digital media business’ employee, Lithuania’s Gambling Supervisory Authority further clarified the situation in a series of statements.
Lithuania’s main gambling regulator characterized basketball news website Krepšinis.net as a “refuge for illegal gambling advertising for several years.”
The reason as to how the website got away with hosting illegal gambling advertisements for several years was due to the fact that the website was registered outside of Lithuania, thereby complicating any enforcement of gambling advertising regulations.
Help then arrived in the form of the Vilnius City District Court, which ruled that the basketball news website advertised gambling in a way that breached Lithuanian law because the website specifically targets Lithuanian customers and that this practice is not permitted under Lithuanian law. In a statement announcing the fine, the regulator explained:
“With gambling advertised on Krepšinis.net, law-abiding Lithuanian portals found themselves in an unequal situation, and citizens were illegally encouraged to participate in gambling.”
Lithuania’s Gambling Supervisory Authority went onto conduct an investigation into the matter and subsequently determined that the illegal gambling ads were placed by a business named UAB All Media Digital, which provides advertising services for websites.
As a result, an employee of UAB All Media Digital who was determined to be responsible for placing the ads on Krepšinis.net was fined €1,500.
Lithuanian Regulator Issued First-Ever Fine in March
The fining of the employee of UAB All Media Digital who was responsible for running illegal gambling ads on basketball news website Krepšinis.net was Lithuania’s Gambling Supervisory Authority second-ever issued fine since the country’s Gambling Act introduced the power to impose economic sanctions on operators.
In March 2021, the Supervisory Authority issued its first-ever fine against an operator — UAB Tete-a-Tete Casino, owner of the CBet brand.
The operator was fined €15,000 (£12,881/$17,908) for unreasonably setting betting limits on an online gambling customer.
Upon further investigation, Lithuania’s Gambling Supervisory Authority found that the operator had limited both the number of bets placed and the winnings received by the player in question.
However, the reasons behind the operator’s decision to limit the customer were unclear, seeing as the inspection failed to reveal any objective reasons for the operator’s decision to limit the player’s betting activity.
The Supervisory Authority’s subsequent decision to issue the fine came back to Lithuania’s remote gaming regulations, which do not entitle a company to apply betting restrictions without first finding a breach in regulations.
The regulator therefore concluded that a player may not be restricted from participating in gambling without any objective grounds for the restrictions defined in the country’s gambling regulations.
Lithuanian Gambling Authority Lobbied for More Power in December 2019
Aside from conducting investigations and issuing fines, the Lithuanian Gambling Supervisory Authority sought to increase its power in December 2019 by lobbying the Vilnius Regional Administrative Court to grant it the ability to block access and payments.
The move was part of the body’s attempt to better tackle unlicensed gambling websites in its efforts to counteract illegal gambling.
With these powers, the Gambling Supervisory Authority would be able to issue legally binding orders to have internet service providers (ISPs) block unlicensed gambling websites.
It would also have the ability to demand payment processing companies to cease all transactions with businesses involved in operating unlicensed gambling sites.
In the event the gambling authority is granted such powers, it will essentially be elevated to the level of the Lithuanian Radio and Television Commission (LRTK).
This is noteworthy because the LRTK can already block certain ISPs in order to prevent Lithuanian citizens from accessing illegal content.
Be that as it may, the Gambling Supervisory Authority still has the ability to take measures against illegal operators through the creation of an online gaming blacklist.
As it stood in December 2019, the blacklist includes 354 domains, including sites operated by Kindred Group, The Stars Group, bet365 and Flutter Entertainment.