Georgia, a once pro-gambling nation, is now making a 180-degree turn as the government considers cracking down on online casinos amid fears of money flowing out of the country. Georgia’s Prime Minister, Irakli Gharibashvili, explained that the government’s ambitions are to enforce the strongest online casino rules among all countries in the region.
Georgia’s Two-Phase Plan of Banning Online Casinos
To this end, the Georgian government will go with Gharibashvili’s proposed “two-phase approach” that will almost completely limit the online casinos’ operations, leading to a nigh full ban.
The first phase of the plan will see Georgia’s Minister of Finance, Lasha Khutsishvili, elevate the taxes that online casinos have to pay in addition to banning them from running any sort of advertisement.
Furthermore, as a part of the first phase of Georgia’s battle against online gambling, Gharibashvili’s envisions increasing the minimum age for placing a bet to 25 years.
After this has been done, Gharibashvili’s government will proceed to the second phase of the plan which will further limit online casinos, eventually leading to the full prohibition of their operations.
We also consider prohibiting online casino advertising and increase the minimum gambling age to 25 years. The second stage should prohibit operations of online casinos,” Georgia’s Prime Minister explained.
Georgia’s Sudden Change of Heart is Caused by Socio-Economic Problems
Georgia used to be a pro-gambling country under the previous government. At that time, iGaming was strongly promoted, leading to the Irish bookmaker Flutter investing $122 million to acquire 51% of the local operator Adjarabet. There were some great prospects for the future of gambling in the state.
The main reason for Georgia’s drastic actions against online casinos is related to the socio-economic issues that the country is facing. In Gharibashvili’s words, cracking down on online casinos is both an economic and civic duty for the protection of the country. He explained that $517 million are getting exported outside of Georgia through offshore online casinos. Moreover, the lack of gambling culture in the country oftentimes leads to Georgian youth playing their money away each day.
“Unfortunately, the money of our citizens is flowing out of the country, this amount is one billion five hundred million dollars and 99% of it is the money of people living in poverty with no jobs,” Gharibashvili pointed out.
He added that he had wanted to reach a compromise and find a more moderate solution that will lead to a healthier gambling ecosystem that doesn’t damage Georgia’s economy but he thinks that the more drastic solution would be better received by the Georgians.