The Republic of Georgia appears to be backing away from threats to impose a total ban on online gambling.
Last month, Georgian media reported that the country’s parliamentarians were pressing the government to make online gambling explicitly illegal, while more sober minds at the Ministry of Finance explained that such a stance was not only impractical but virtually impossible to enforce.
More recent reports suggest that the government plans to permit online gambling to continue but gamblers would be required to register with the country’s tax service in order to access gambling sites. The aim of this registry appears to be to ensure that online gamblers are at least 21 years of age.
Like many other nations, Georgia’s government appears split on the desire to restrict online gambling’s reach while ensuring the state earns its share of gambling revenue. Georgian MP Levan Gogichaishvili recently complained that the government is missing out on potential annual tax revenue of GEL 200m (US $80.6m) on the money that currently flows out of the country to internationally licensed online gambling operators catering to Georgian punters.
Georgia imposed new gambling tax rules as of January 1, 2017 that doubled tax rates on casino, gaming hall, betting shop and online gambling revenue from 5% to 10%, while fixed fees on individual gaming tables and slot machines also increased.
The net result of these hikes was a return to the government of $58.4m in the first half of 2017, one-third more than the government’s gambling tax take in all of 2016. There are an estimated 138 gambling companies of all stripes currently authorized to do business in Georgia.
Some government sources estimate that 500k Georgians enjoy an occasional online flutter, which seems a bit high, given the country’s population is less than 4m. Locally licensed online operators include Adjarabet, Iveriabet and the Georgian state lottery.
In general, Georgia has been taking a dimmer view of gambling’s impact on society. In 2015, the Ministry of Defense announced that servicemen and women could face immediate dismissal for excessive gambling. The government meted out gambling-related punishments against 15 military personnel last year, and another 11 so far in 2017.