The Republic of Georgia is mulling a total prohibition of online gambling as part of its gambling regulatory overhaul, although not everyone in the government is convinced it’s a good idea.
Last week, Georgian media reported on a disagreement brewing between two special commissions tasked with studying the nation’s gambling laws. One of these commissions is organized by the nation’s parliamentarians and the other by bureaucrats in the Ministry of Finance.
According to the report, the parliamentarians are pushing for a total ban on online gambling, while the Finance officials are skeptical that such a ban would result in any significant reduction in online gambling activity, given the experiences of other countries who have attempted similar bans.
Deputy Finance Minister Lasha Khutsishvili said his department’s analysis of the net effect of other nations’ online gambling bans had concluded that “at present there are no effective mechanisms to actually prohibit online games. Millions of the state budget are spent on such measures, but in vain.”
Georgians need only look across its northern border with Russia or its southern border with Turkey to see the futility of trying to stuff the internet genie back into its bottle. Russia currently bans about 1,500 gambling sites per week to little effect, and while Turkey recently announced plans to redouble its efforts to stamp out illegal gambling, major companies like UK-listed GVC Holdings continue to reap significant chunks of revenue from their Turkish-facing online operations.
It’s unclear whether the online prohibition that legislators are reportedly seeking would apply to all online operators or simply those international rapscallions who compete with locally licensed operators such as Adjarabet, Iveriabet or the digital operations of Georgia’s national lottery.
In July, the Ministry of Finance announced plans to establish a Gambling Business Policy Division, which was given a mandate to develop the nation’s gambling regulations in conjunction with stakeholders, while ensuring appropriate consumer protections for local gamblers.