The FINANCIAL -- The modern, stylish and top-service gaming facility in Georgia, Shangri La Casino Tbilisi is continuing to provide comfort, friendliness and superior customer service, inviting everyone to try their luck in its luxurious atmosphere.
Shangri La Tbilisi is a part of Shangri La casinos family, managed by Storm International – a world-famous gaming business operator with more than 25 years of history and reputation.
Located in one of the most historic and picturesque areas of Tbilisi near Bridge of Peace, Shangri La Casino offers both table games (various kinds of Poker, American Roulette, Blackjack, and Punto Banco) as well as state-of-the-art slot machines by the world’s best manufacturers.
Shangri La is a classic casino and introducing new games is not its core principle, but sometimes, when new trends are obvious, Shangri La definitely brings them to Georgia, which happened recently when it introduced new poker varieties: Three Card Poker and Ultimate Texas Hold’em.
“With optional ways to play and win, Three Card Poker is becoming the hottest table game nowadays. This is a comparably new game in the casino world, but players are very attracted to it because of its simplicity,” said Marketing and PR Director at Shangri La, Lavrentiy Gubin.
The company upholds all the established international gaming standards along with excellent service and security. This year Shangri La has been awarded by the most prestigious and influential business awards in Georgia – Golden Brand.
“Shangri La Tbilisi Casino was honoured to receive recognition and status for providing the best service out of all Georgian casino operators. At Shangri La, we are giving better service than all of other casinos in the region. We are a club-style casino and in this segment we are much better than lots of European casinos in terms of service,” said Gubin.
“We received the award thanks to the power of our brand, due to our input into the Georgian economy and by being one of the most responsible companies in the gaming business,” he added.
The contribution of Shangri La to the Georgian economy is impressive as it is among the top-100 largest taxpayers in Georgia.
“Our positive influence on the Georgian economy is not only through paying taxes, but also by bringing money to other businesses. There are dozens of companies who receive substantial business from us – suppliers, service providers, transport, hotels and so on. We are in the list of the largest taxpayers in Georgia only being just a single casino and not a huge company with many branches. We pay GEL 5 million every year for our license and almost the same money in gaming tax, which is GEL 40,000 per quarter for every gaming table and GEL 4,000 per quarter for every slot machine, we also pay taxes on lotteries and salaries. By the way we have over 400 employees and our salaries are higher than the average available on the market. So we contribute impressively to the development of the Georgian economy,” said Gubin.
Could you please summarize the year 2016? What were the main challenges and developments that year?
The year 2016 was much better than the year before, mainly because of the better visa policy of Georgia.
A while ago there were some visa restrictions for our major markets, mainly for Iran and neighbouring countries. Once the visa requirements for Iranians and other citizens were cancelled we started to have more clients from these areas.
We now have more and more tourists coming to Tbilisi and of course that also influences our business in a positive way, because local casinos are mainly targeting foreigners.
From the other side, casinos are one of the reasons that rich and wealthy people are coming to Georgia and they not only gamble, but spend money on hotels, restaurants, shops, so it is a great benefit for every business related with tourism and entertainment.
Why was Georgia chosen as the country where Shangri La wanted to operate?
First of all because of the proper legal base established in Georgia several years ago. The other reasons are – transparent licensing, clear rules of operations and of course the geographical position. There are lots of countries around Georgia like Azerbaijan, Turkey and Iran where gambling is not legal and people from those countries tend to come to Georgia for holidays and also for gambling.
What are your main challenges as a business in Georgia?
Of course we still face challenges as we pay really high taxes and license fees, while operating in a very competitive market. There are lots of gaming venues in Tbilisi and sometimes we have to work really hard to cover our expenses, especially in the low seasons.
We have low seasons several times a year during such months like February and August and during the period after Novruz – a traditional Muslim holiday which celebrates the New Year and the coming of spring in Azerbaijan and Iran.
Time after time we hear speculation from politicians that casinos should be closed in Georgia, or moved to a specific place, or be regulated more strictly. How easy is it for Shangri La to operate here and how is the industry regulated?
Every developed country has casinos and every developed government understands that it is absolutely impossible to prohibit the gaming business. Otherwise it will go underground and will cause more trouble, like corruption, illegal operations and growth of crime, as it becomes absolutely uncontrolled. In this case government needs to spend more state money on fighting crime instead of not having these problems and getting additional income from gaming tax. So it is better to have properly regulated gaming business rather than a prohibited one.
In Georgia gaming business is already well-regulated. We have quite clear rules of operations. There is age control, regulations of gaming rules, payments, video surveillance, security, cash operations, etc. Everything is already in place and works well. The industry is strictly controlled by corresponding authorities to exclude any illegal actions. We may say that nowadays Georgian gaming law may be used as an example for many countries.
The Gaming business often becomes a target for some politicians because it is easier to target casinos and blame them for something instead of working with real problems. The main reason for it is the fact, that according to the statistics not more than five percent of the population have ever been to a casino, so 95% have absolutely no idea about casinos and can believe anything they are told about it.
What are the future plans of Shangri La in Georgia?
The market is really competitive so we do not have any specific plans to expand in Tbilisi. Maybe there are already too many gaming locations in Georgia and now we see no reason for us to extend operations.
What we constantly do year after year is improving our services and operations, trying to make them as perfect as possible. There is always room to develop in terms of quality but currently there is no room to develop in terms of quantity.
You mentioned competition and the fact that there is already no more room for development. But we see new casinos are opening up here. So, what would you say - is there healthy competition on the market?
I already said that the gaming industry is very well-regulated in Georgia. So, if the gaming business develops in a properly regulated way all the companies are maximally transparent and also respect each other. You cannot play dirty games with your competitors because the environment itself is healthy and breaking the rules causes more trouble than benefit.
We all do our best for our clients and let the market naturally regulate the number of businesses. Ultimately, it is up to the guests to make their choice.