New coalition wants to impose gambling ads ban

The UNIBET Arena, in Tallinn.
The UNIBET Arena, in Tallinn. Source: Mait Ots/ERR

The incoming Reform-Eesti 200-SDE coalition says it wants to ban sports betting and online gaming ads, and to put measures in place to assist those who have a gambling addiction problem.

Returning Interior Minister Lauri Läänemets (SDE) said: "In particular, while we may have tended to think that nowadays some types of gambling ads are banned, sports betting gets advertised from morning to night."

"We all know how much harm this does to society. People who have a gambling addiction can often not break the cycle. It breaks up families, while I would venture to say that damage which may result can be significantly greater for society," he went on.

Läänemets expressed a hope that gambling advertisements will not be visible on the streets in Estonia in future, which on its own brings the recent renaming of what was the Saku Suurhall to the UNIBET Arena into the spotlight.

Läänemets said that it is not yet clear what will happen with the UNIBET Arena, adding that if the ban comes, it will apply to all.

The new coalition says it also hopes to strengthen gambling addiction counseling, to offer help to those in a difficult situation as a result of the practice, along with their dependents.

The coalition agreement has a clause referring to a ban on online gambling ads and also payday loan ads.

Spokespersons from the advertising and gaming sector said that the ban may lead to hidden advertising, or different forms of direct marketing, however.

On ad expert, Joel Volkov, said that one outcome of a ban may be an even greater emphasis on social media, which raises the question as to how to control what is happening in social networks – which in any case cannot be fully monitored, he said.

The ban would also lead to declining revenues from advertising and in those revenues in effect leaving the country.

Tõnis Rüütel, director of the Estonian Gaming Operator Association (EHKL) said the ban had come as a surprise, since current regulation, overseen by the Consumer Protection and Technical Regulatory Authority (TTJA), is comparatively strong.

The move will also lead to severed ties with related Estonian sports leagues, clubs and other leisure activities.

Rüütel said that in recent years, the union has been negotiating with the TTJA and the Ministry of Economic affairs and Communications, in order to modernize the advertising rules, adding that further meetings with the board's director, Kristi Talvingo, were going to take place.

Many online gaming sites are barred to access from an Estonian IP address, though there is a list of approved sites. Several large firms engaged in online and sports betting and related activities have offices in Estonia, including Coolbet and YOLO Group.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte, Mait Ots

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