In a country across the black sea on the southeastern fronts of Europe, there is a small country, the Republic of Georgia, which is slowly becoming an epicenter of games of chance with its booming gambling destinations all across the nation. Bookmakers in 2019 have reported as much as $130 million in tax revenue.
Gambling and its more popular iteration – betting on sports – is an extremely popular activity for a lot of people in Georgia. This is clearly noticeable once you visit the country as most of the major districts have flashy, huge advertisements and banners pointing out where and how to participate in the activity. The flashy casinos are a big part of expensive resorts in the country with coastal cities like Batumi, situated quite closeby to the border of Turkey where gambling is illegal, with a number of huge resort estates situated all across the city attracting wealthy visitors that just want to break away from the taboo in their own countries.
The sector is actually one of the drivers of the local economy with a huge number of people working in the game of chance establishments. This isn’t just service people though. There are a lot of IT infrastructure involved in the development as well as digital gambling games like online slots, blackjack, and others. Due to the popularity of the whole sector, the companies started offering one of the best casino bonus codes to interested individuals to get a headstart and play away as much as they wish. The IT innovations are working hard on pushing this sector to a wider audience who can even enjoy these games on some of the most iconic devices like tablets, smartphones, and PCs.
The National Statistics Office of Georgia has collected information from the Ministry of Finance where it states that Georgians bet as much as 996 million Georgian Lari (GEL) which translates to $374 million United States Dollars (USD) in 2012. In 5 years the number has increased to over 6 billion GEL ($2.2 billion) While this does not seem like a considerable amount of money to someone from a big country it is worth noting that this is a nation with a population of only 3.9 million people.
The largest increase was noted in 2015 when the growth of online gambling and sports betting has increased by a whopping 91% which is an absolutely crazy amount. This shows that the whole industry is thriving in the country. There are a number of movements against it though. The vast majority of the population has gambling issues and the annual salaries do not and cannot support such hobbies in a developing country with an unstable economy that is heavily dependant on the tourism sector.
The growth can be largely attributed to the fact that the Georgian government has made active a number of tax exemptions for the gambling industry in specific parts of the country. While in most of the regions of the country to set up a casino the company has to pay as much as 5 million GEL annually but if it comes to cities like Batumi, Gudauri, Bakuriani, and Borjomi the tax is decreased over twenty-fold to 250,000GEL. This is due to the fact that the resort industry is usually closely tied to casinos and thus the regions with high touristic value are deemed to be exempt from the tax since it encourages investors to build the resorts that will in-term house all of these tourists.
According to the statistics from the Ministry of Finance, in Georgia, there were 247 permits given out to the institutions to run casinos and gambling services in 2019. The industry has been quoted to have paid as much as 137 million GEL in taxes over the year. The number is higher by 17 million in comparison to what it used to be the previous year. This is a clear indicator of the increase in the number of casinos across the country. In Batumi, for example, currently, there are as many as 10 casinos operating. During the next 4 years, there will be 5 new ones opening. From 2013 to 2016 the amount of people visiting these casinos has increased 2.3 times amounting to 680,000 visitors annually. In 2016 most of the casino visitors (76% to be precise) in the Adjara region have been foreigners.
The public opinion on this subject is mixed to negative at best. A lot of people believe the surge of casinos to have adverse effects on the society and minors in particular. Even though, according to the national law, the age of legal gambling is 18 people under 21 are prohibited from entering casinos. However, it is also worth noting that the biggest problem comes from the people playing at online gambling institutions. These websites are everywhere. Georgian internet is plagued by ads from different online gambling firms to the point where one of them is even running a video streaming platform in the country named after the company itself. Due to this, a lot of these ads are very much up in the face of minors across the country who have found some ways to circumvent the existing restrictions like registering online with someone else’s ID and etc.
Public vs Gambling
Transparency International Georgia with the help of the Caucasus Research Resource Center (CRRC) has conducted a public opinion survey in 2015. The end results were that 94% of the respondents were not involved in any type of gambling. The majority of the remaining 6% gave a clear indication that they prefer doing online sports betting. Most of the respondents have stated that if they have played they gambled for fun and lost the money much more often than not. At this point, only 2% of the respondents have been vocal about the financial problems that they have faced due to the gambling problem.
However, even though most of the population seems to be not gambling over 92% of the respondents shared negative opinions about the whole casino business. Over 63% believe that it should be banned and as much as 29% of the respondents think that it should be restricted to an extent.
According to the Transparency International Georgia’s summary, the country should keep its relaxed approach towards gambling as it seems to be one of the driving factors of the tourism industry, which is the main contributor to the Georgian economy. Apart from this, it brings in much-needed foreign funds into the country that helps regulate the local currency. However, there is by far not enough information concerning the adverse social effects of such a rampant gambling industry on the population.