Over 1.45m citizens of Georgia have been banned from gambling under a series of strict reforms introduced by the government this month.
The figure was disclosed by Lasha Khutsishvili, Minister of Finance of the Caucasus nation, in an update to government on market developments.
2022 saw PM Irakli Garibashvili approve a new decree which prohibited individuals under 25, socially vulnerable citizens, public employees, and those blacklisted by courts or self-restricting from all gambling activities (land-based and online).
The changes were deemed necessary for Georgia to secure its ‘European Council 12-point conditions’ needed to grant the country EU candidate status, in which it is required to strengthen its fight against organised crime.
Further restrictions saw a blanket-ban imposed on all gambling advertising across national media and an increase in the tax base of gambling to 65-to-70%.
In addition, Parliament is poised to further tighten the gambling regulations. According to the proposed changes, ship-based casinos will be banned and additional permissions will be required for online gambling operators.
Permission for each online game will cost GEL 100,000 ($36,974), and businesses must comply by April 1, 2023. The Ministry of Finance noted that currently, only 12 licensed businesses are operating online.
The changes come after last year’s stricter gambling regulations, which prohibited gambling advertising on TV, Georgian websites, or external advertising. The tax base for the industry increased by 65-70%, and access to gambling was restricted for people under the age of 25 and socially vulnerable segments.
The head of the Georgian Gambling Association (GGA), Giorgi Mamulaishvili, stated that initial meetings with the Ministry of Finance have been held, but industry stakeholders were unaware of the specifics of the amendments.
The GGA hopes to attend committee hearings and express its arguments on the issue. Mamulaishvili also noted that due to the new rules, companies will have to optimise their spending once again since the government is introducing new taxation.
The introduction of these regulations has led to new challenges in the industry, with an influx of foreign and illegal sites appearing on the Georgian market.
With the full implementation of the legislative changes scheduled for 2024, the government continues its commitment to addressing the gambling industry’s challenges and aligning its policies with the EU’s expectations.