01 Mar, 2018
Six MPs have registered a legislative initiative in the Parliament of Georgia, which envisages a ban on the distribution of gambling and winning games. The Business Ombudsman of Georgia responded to the bill and assessed the restriction of advertising for the gambling business negatively. In his statement, Irakli Lekvinadze stated that the draft amendments to the Law of Georgia on Advertising contain several critical issues. Lekvinadze's reason for opposing the ban on advertising and whether he is aware of the European experience on these issues.
Mr. Irakli, do you think that the restriction of gambling advertising will harm the advertising business, to explain more specifically, what damage will the new bill bring to the private sector?
We believe that the proposed changes affect not only gambling operators (advertisers), but also advertising and distribution companies, including television, radio and print media, and significantly limit the area of the advertising market. The short deadline for implementation of the change indicated in the bill (14th day after its publication) will also create a significant problem for businesses. It must be borne in mind that companies producing and distributing advertisements have ongoing contracts in the field of gambling and gambling, which can not be terminated in such a short period of time or their termination will cause significant harm to both these companies and their customers. Therefore, it is necessary to set a reasonable timeframe for the implementation of this change. The bill also does not contain any reservations or transition periods to comply with the new regulation (limitation of signage space) on signs placed on gambling and gambling establishments, which will also pose a significant problem in practice. It should be noted that the bill registered in the parliament also addresses issues on which the working group did not agree (for example, the issue of regulation of signs) or otherwise agreed (for example, the distance of outdoor advertising from religious and educational institutions).
If you know the European experience with the gambling business, in all European countries the law strictly protects its population from the influence of gambling
We request that the interest of the field and the best international practice be taken into account. These include setting a new age limit for people involved in games. There is talk of restricting gambling for people under 25, when in the UK, Germany and Spain the limit is 18 years, in the US it is 21 years. If this regulation is adopted, there is a risk that citizens between the ages of 18 and 25 involved in this field will be redirected to foreign sites, which will result in the loss of licensed online gambling and gambling companies registered in Georgia, thus reducing taxes receivable by the state. Our view is that, given the circumstances, the optimal age limit would be 21 years.
Also critical is the recommendation to include a person in the list of dependents, which states that a family member is given the opportunity to apply to a court to request the inclusion of a citizen in the list of dependents for 3 years. The gambling business proposal is to take into account the international practice and to determine the term of stay in the register for not more than 2 years. We also think that the definition of a family member should be clarified in order to clarify the list of persons who will be able to apply to the court with a request to be included in the list of dependents of a family member.
In your opinion, why is the advertising of tobacco, alcoholic beverages and gambling business restricted all over the world?
We understand and share the spirit of the initiators about the existence of regulations in the fields you have named, however we think that the regulations should be clear to the business and administrable so that the new rules bring us results and do not turn out to be just an additional burden for the business. Accordingly, our recommendation is to adopt regulations prior to active consultation with the industry and in areas where we do not have extensive regulatory experience, to pay attention to international best practices.
Among them is the example of Great Britain, where the advertising of gambling and gambling is limited and not completely banned, as it is planned in Georgia. Following the example of the UK, gambling marketing should be built on social responsibility, specifically to protect children, young people and people at risk from harm and exploitation.
According to your information, how much money is included in the state budget from the gambling business?
In 2017, up to 350 million GEL was transferred from the gambling business to the central and local budgets. Also, the field employs up to 10 thousand people. The gambling business generates an additional value of GEL 600 million annually in the country's GDP.
Another issue that Kommersant talked to Irakli Lekvinadze about is the privileged state of the gambling business.
Experts and cafe-bar owners regarding the admission of tobacco in slot clubs say that casinos have lobbyists if you have information about it and are you studying this issue?
We constantly have meetings with businessmen, we cooperate with business associations and economic unions operating in Georgia. Any such type of statement is certainly noteworthy. The owners of the cafe-bars have not appealed to the Office of the Business Ombudsman at this time, but we are ready to get involved in the process if necessary.