Gambling is more popular than shopping for groceries in the Republic of Georgia, according to the national statistics service.
A recent report in Georgian media outlet Akhali Taoba quoted Sakstat figures that found gambling business spending totaled GEL5.65b (US$2.3b) in 2017, up from GEL4.2b in 2016 and just GEL2.1 in 2015. Meanwhile, last year’s total expenditure in Georgia’s ‘non-retail’ stores aka supermarkets was only GEL4.1b.
Critics are citing the above statistics as further proof that the government needs to rein in the evidently out-of-control gambling industry. These same critics want the government to get on with its previously stated plans to rein in gambling operators, but the government now appears more interested in ensuring it gets its proper cut of gambling revenue.
But these critics are reading the stats wrong, according to statistician Soso Archvadze, who pointed out that a great many of the individuals gambling in Georgian casinos are foreign tourists, including the hordes of Turks who flood across the border in search of the pleasures denied to them in their native land.
As such, the sum gambled by Georgians is significantly below the headline figures. Archvadze said native Georgians have spent a total of GEL9b on gambling since 2011, for an annual average of GEL1.3b ($528m), or about GEL325 ($133) for each of Georgia’s 4m citizens.
That said, Sakstat did find that three of the top revenue-generating firms in Georgia last year were betting companies: Europe-Bet (owned by Betsson AB), Leader-bet and Crystalbet (the latter was recently acquired by UK operator GVC Holdings).
SMOKE ‘EM IF YOU GOT ‘EM
In related news, land-based gambling venues have somehow wrangled an exemption from Georgia’s new Law on Tobacco. The new law, which took effect on May 1, bans smoking in nearly all enclosed areas, except casinos (including Casino Iveria Tbilisi, pictured).
Local media outlet Commersant quoted some nightclub owners who were irate over not being granted the same exemptions, but even they understood that the government wasn’t about to mess with a cash cow that was a major contributor to the state budget, so blaze away, gamblers.