12 Jul, 2018
After the banking sector in Georgia, the gambling business industry is one of the most powerful, profitable and, in fact, untouchable sector. The reason is often mentioned by influential patrons, and the leverage is the billions of GEL that fill the budget.
According to the latest data, the turnover of this business amounted to 5.6 billion GEL, which is 5% more than last year. A total of 170 business entities operate and 7.7 thousand people are employed.
What is the situation in the gambling business sector and why was the discussion of the bill in the Parliament, which will regulate the activities of online casinos, delayed?
Before discussing the bill, the government is trying to get more information about the dynamics of business sector development, Geostat has signed a memorandum with the Gambling Business Association, which obliges market players to provide objective information.
"This field is characterized by peculiarities, the calculation of indicators is also specific. Therefore, we agree to convene joint working groups, discuss methodologies, which will help to increase public awareness and the quality of statistics, "- said Gogita Todradze, CEO of Geostat with" Commersant ".
The fact is that the turnover of the gambling business is steadily increasing. According to the Revenue Service, in 2016, the annual turnover of the gambling business increased by 4,303,193,000 GEL. In 2015, this number was about 3 billion, and in 2014 it was 2,155,209,000 GEL.
Statistics show that the gambling business is an important source of attracting tourists and filling the budget. However, every year the number of people addicted to gambling increases. The increasing number of suicides is often linked to gambling. The growing segment of "online casinos" is especially growing. The government has tried several times to regulate this area of gambling business.
Former Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili announced in December 2015 that he might impose strict regulations on online casinos. He noted that this business will be thoroughly explored. A proposal to ban online gambling was made by representatives of several executive or legislative bodies, but this was met with a negative reaction from business and the parliamentary majority.
For the same reason, a bill restricting the gambling business was introduced in Parliament in 2014 and failed in the first reading.
In 2017, a working group was set up in Parliament to work with the Ministry of Finance to regulate online casinos.
According to the legislative changes initiated by the Government of Georgia, the accounts of all users in online casinos or bookmakers (Adjarabet, Europabet, Crystalbet, etc.) should be canceled. The reason, according to the government, is to protect citizens under the age of 21 from gambling. Those who meet the new requirements of the law will be able to re-register.
According to the draft legislative amendments submitted by the government to the Parliament, Georgian citizens will be able to play in bookmakers or casinos only from the age of 21. However, players under the age of 21 can now have accounts in online bookmakers. The government is considering canceling the accounts of absolutely all current users (including those who have already turned 21 years old).
The fact is that the government could not agree with the gambling industry. Discussions on the bill have not started in the parliament so far. Zurab Beruashvili, Chairman of the Gambling Business Association, told Kommersant that he is actively cooperating with the Ministry of Finance and the Business Ombudsman on the legal regulations of online casinos. The gambling industry has its quotes and 12-point plan. However, the situation is still deadlocked.
Another interesting circumstance is that statements are often heard from representatives of other business sectors that the gambling business has influential patrons in government, which is why this segment enjoys great privileges. This also explains the fact that casinos and casinos have not yet been affected by the law banning smoking indoors.
"It is a shame that the Gambling Business Association dictates policies to the Georgian government and parliament. "This is a criminal business that literally kills people. Their raids should be legally limited in this country," Giorgi Bakhturidze, chairman of the Tobacco Control Alliance, told Kommersant.
Against this background, Deputy Business Ombudsman Zurab Dznelashvili says that state structures should pay special attention when it comes to tightening the regulation of the gambling business, as this is a field that Georgia needs.