Georgia’s Prime Minister, Irakli Gharibashvili, has implemented tax increases on the gambling industry, citing the “catastrophic” level of gambling in the country. During his budget speech, Gharibashvili revealed that the turnover of the gambling business had risen from GEL 48 billion to GEL 52 billion ($19.2bn/£15.5bn/€17.9bn), which he deemed alarming. This increase occurred despite the ban on gambling advertising and the minimum age requirement being raised to 25, which prevented 1.5 million young individuals from participating in gambling.
In response to these concerns, the government will raise the tax rate on gambling industry revenue from 10% to 15%. Additionally, there will be changes to cash withdrawals, with gamblers now required to pay a fee of 5% instead of the previous 2%. These amendments are expected to generate an additional GEL 400 million per year.
Prime Minister Gharibashvili expressed his disappointment and surprise at the continued high level of gambling participation despite the government’s efforts to restrict it. In an effort to combat the issue, he signed a package of reforms aimed at Georgia’s gambling laws. These reforms include new regulations that limit online casinos to land-based companies. The main goal of these reforms is to address the harms caused by gambling, particularly among young people.
These changes represent the most significant reform of Georgia’s gambling laws in three years, with the aim of improving the country’s regulatory regime and promoting safer gambling practices. Some of the key reforms include raising the age limit for gambling to 25, increasing taxes for iGaming firms by 70%, banning TV advertising, and prohibiting self-excluded individuals and public workers from gambling.
Under the new regulations, only ten land-based casino operations, including Crystalbet, Adjara Group, and Iveria, will be allowed to obtain an online casino license. Online slots will only be available in retail slots salons, and sports wagering will be restricted to brick-and-mortar sportsbooks. While additional online licenses will be made available, the government will charge an annual fee of €1.6 million per license owner.
Some experts have criticized the high fee, deeming it excessive for a country like Georgia. However, the government argues that the fee is intended to promote growth in local companies and create a level playing field for all industry participants.