06 Apr, 2022
In recent years, the gambling industry in Georgia has been growing at a high rate, and is one of the most developed and profitable areas, the tax paid to the budget exceeds 4% of the gross domestic product. Almost 430% growth recorded in 3 years is quite a high rate, which is mainly due to increased demand for online casinos. The government has set a goal to limit this new and growing segment of gambling, which directly affects the Georgian economy, Georgian sports and media.
It should be noted that gambling business is always one of the most strictly regulated areas under the laws of Georgia, gambling companies pay many types of taxes, namely profit, income, VAT, property and gambling business tax. In total, approximately 300-400 million GEL is included in the state budget from gambling companies with taxes and fines.
In addition, the gambling sector in Georgia employs about 11,000 citizens, and the average salary of the employees is more than 2,000 GEL. Despite the fact that business turnover has increased by almost 430% since 2017, the amount of money received from taxes has not changed significantly, which is caused by a number of factors. Tightened regulations will have a negative impact on the income of gambling companies, and therefore on the taxes paid to the budget. The restriction of the right to play for the population aged 18 to 24 is especially important, because the number of citizens of this age in Georgia reaches 280,000.
Nevertheless, Lasha Khutsishvili thinks that the state budget will not incur losses, because the reduced revenues of the companies will be balanced by the increased taxes. Which in itself is wrong reasoning.
As a result of the ban and regulations, a large number of users turn to international online casinos, and the money received by Georgian companies and the country's budget will be transferred to other countries through VPN, and this will not solve the problem of gambling addiction, and the economy of Georgia will suffer.
Due to the changes in the Law on Gambling, the gambling sector has decreased by more than 15%. Unlike Georgian business operators, the government does not restrict the advertising of foreign gaming companies on the Georgian market, therefore, Georgian users can verify, deposit and receive money on foreign websites by sending an SMS.
"Based on the changes, it can be said that at this stage the sector has a decline of more than 15%. It turns out that these funds were transferred to foreign sites, because a trend was revealed that foreign sites actively advertise their products on the Georgian market, the Revenue Service monitors the advertising of business operators registered in Georgia, but does not do the same for foreign companies.
In terms of law enforcement and administration, there is a very unfair and unequal situation for Georgian business operators and foreign business operators. There are no restrictions on foreign websites, it is possible to verify and deposit/receive money by sending an SMS. The head of the association sends screenshots to different structures every day, because the authorities do not have the appropriate lever to control the advertisements of foreign sites. In addition, in terms of administration, the government has no power to restrict any actions of foreign business operators on the territory of Georgia, while Georgian operators cannot write short text messages to their users and send advertising offers on Facebook. Such weak law enforcement mechanisms doubly harm Georgian business operators and, accordingly, the country's economy.
In addition, banning the game for persons under 18-25 years of age made them switch to illegal sites and the so-called He brought back the practice of "making fun on hand". "If we limit legal operators in Georgia, the player will still find a way to switch to other, including illegal, sites. The principles of so-called "hands-on fun" will return, which was before, and the country has gone a long way to eliminate this," said George Mamulaishvili.
Part of the population is involved in illegal gambling. 120 million GEL will flow out of Georgia per year, and with the new legislation this number will increase at least ten times. A person aged 18 to 25 who gets used to illegal sites and their bonuses will not return to the Georgian market. Foreign, unlicensed websites where the age limit is 18, unlike local online gaming websites, do not have high registration/verification standards. The mentioned actually excludes the control of the protection of the rights of the citizens of Georgia by the state. In addition, the aforementioned risks cannot be eliminated even in the circumstances of restricting access to foreign websites. In the conditions of technological capabilities and the availability of foreign wallets, it is practically impossible to eliminate playing on unlicensed websites outside the country and, accordingly, the outflow of money. Today, there is no such technology in the world, through which the so-called VPN will be blocked, a clear example of which is the USA and China, which, despite unlimited resources, still failed to limit access to virtual private networks for users.
Therefore, it can be said that one month after the implementation of the full package of regulations, the number of players did not change, they simply moved to foreign sites, and the economy, business environment and image of Georgia for foreign investors and international companies were severely affected.