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Online gambling might face restrictions

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Monday, January 5
Online gambling might be banned or restricted in the near future. The Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) has already launched work on a draft dealing with the issue that will be presented in Parliament at a spring sessionlater this year.

Mishiko, 16, told The Messenger that he plays online pocker daily. According to him, many of his friends also play online.

“Some of them are in debt due to the activity. Many of them have problems in their families, but they cannot give it up… me too. Sometimes I win, but mainly I lose, but I want to play anyway,” he said.

Deputy Interior Minister Levan Izoria confirms that the ministry is working on a draft that will not affect business or the economy, nor will it violate any civil rights. He says that many underage children are engaged in online gambling.

Research was conducted by Transparency International Georgia, and it was found that the first significant increase in the gambling market and its profits was noted in 2011. The gambling market kept growing in 2012-2013.

“In 2013, the turnover of gambling and other gaming companies totaled approximately 1.2 billion GEL, while duties collected from permits reached 105.2 million GEL (1.4% of the 2013 state budget revenues),” TI says.

The NGOs states that based on October 1, 2014 data, there are 94 gambling or gaming companies operating in Georgia. This list includes 32 large companies. Most companies are operating in Tbilisi, followed by Batumi and Kutaisi.

Psychologist Tea Gogotishvili supports introducing a ban on online gambling.

“Adults have false illusions of gaining wealth swiftly that instead often can lead to fatal consequences,” she said.

Economic analyst Levan Kalandadze states that restrictions and bans will cause damage to business and the economy. However, he believes that an age limit should be established.

In February 2014, MP Koba Davitashvili raised the subject of forbidding gambling advertisements in Georgia. The initiative was discussed in the Legal Committee session but parliament rejected it.