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New Package of Amendments in Gambling Sector Regulations

By Vladimer Napetvaridze
Wednesday, February 28
Georgian Finance Minister Mamuka Bakhtadze, in his interview to PalitraNews, talked about the new packet of amendments planned for the gambling business. According to Bakhtadze, these reforms will solve all the challenges in the field:

"I hope that after developing this sector, it will attract players mostly from abroad, and less Georgian citizens will be involved in it. As a result of these changes, we want to create a civilized business sector, where human rights will be protected, excluding involvement of the under-aged. Our goal is to help our citizens avoid losing a big amount of money they can't pay. At the same time, we must understand that this sector is a huge contributor to the state budget. The reform responds well to the challenge.On one hand human rights are protected and on the other, the gambling sector becomes more transparent ,"Bakhtadze said.

Georgia has one of the most liberal gambling policies, leading to the growth and development of the business.In 2014, when business was at its initial stage of development, according to the Transparency International research, the total income from the gambling sector in the state budget was 1,4%- approximately 105 million GEL.

What is the need to restrict business with such income? In this case, we should discuss, negative effects of the gambling industry. According to various scientific researches, gambling causes same level of addiction as drugs or alcohol. The study, funded by the UK Medical Research Council, found that “two brain areas, called the insula and nucleus accumbens, are highly active when people with gambling addiction experience cravings.” Activity in these areas, which are found deep in the center of the brain and involved in decision-making, reward and impulse control, has been previously linked to drug and alcohol cravings. Accordingly, the gambling-addicted citizen can be a threat to himself and society.

According to the research which was conducted in 2015, by the research center “Alternative Georgia” in collaboration with the National Center for Disease Control and Public Health, 9 percent of the Georgian population said they play gambling games once a month and 87% of them said that it resulted in some financial problems.

Another negative influence of the Gambling Addiction is the frequent suicide cases that are associated with the loss of a large amount of money. One of the similar facts that caused a great stir, happened a few years ago when the Georgian soldier committed suicide because of the lost money. The Ministry of Defense had a strict and immediate reaction to the fact: “The last case was detected several days ago when a soldier committed suicide, therefore any employee of the Defence Ministry, no matter whether he is a soldier or a civilian, will be dismissed from service if caught gambling with no chance of returning to work in the national defence field. There will be no second chance, he will be dismissed in the very first case,” read the statement of the Minister of Defense.

One of the reasons for the fast development of this field in Georgia, is so-called gambling tourism. Since the gambling is strictly regulated in Azerbaijan and Turkey, Georgia remains one of the best touristic destinations for Turkish and Azerbaijani gamblers. In Azerbaijan, sports-betting tables and lotteries are allowed, but casinos remain banned. The ban on gambling dates back to 1998. As for Turkey, gambling is highly regulated. The state banned casinos in 1998, and it banned non-state online gambling in 2006. However, illegal gambling continues to persist through state lotteries, betting services, and a certain level of access to online gambling.

If new initiatives can regulate the Gambling sectors, will be cleared soon. On one hand, the new regulations should not hinder the economy of the country, and on the other, they have to protect citizens from damages caused by gambling addiction.