Gambling in Georgia: contradictory figures
Georgians visit a casino, but they want it to be closed; many Georgians lose, but they still do not experience financial difficulties – the data on gambling business in Georgia is contradictory.
Statistics presume that 51 percent of people around the world gamble in a casino or a slot-club at least once a year. This index makes 94 percent in Georgia. Almost half of them (47 percent) do not gamble periodically or for fun, but rather regularly and for the sake of gain.
These gamblers say they lose much and more frequently rather than win; but only 2 percent of respondents admit, they have faced financial problems because of gambling.
Gambling business in Georgia is well-developed and highly profitable. It is beneficial not only for the owners of casinos, slot-clubs and bookmakers, but for the state budget as well. For example, GEL 105 million [more than $50 mln] were transferred to the treasury last year only from issuance of casino licenses, whereas tax revenues from gambling houses totaled GEL 177, 5 million [more than $90 mln].
Hundreds of casinos, slot-clubs and bookmakers are operating in Georgia nowadays. One third of them are large stable companies, operating already for several years.
The budgets of some municipalities rely on casinos; there are cities, where a quarter of the local budget is replenished by them (the average of 24%).
The majority of casinos are operating in Tbilisi, but there are also gambling venues in Batumi, Kutaisi, Zugdidi, Gori, Rustavi, Kobuleti, Akhaltsikhe, Borjomi, Dusheti and Kazbegi. The amount of annual payment to the state (to acquire a permit for gambling activity) varies depending on the city: for example, in Tbilisi it totals GEL 5 million [more than $2 mln] per year; in Borjomi – GEL 100 thousand [about $50,000].
In certain places, the casino owners are fully exempt from this payment: one is not required to pay the annual fee for opening a casino in Anaklia, Ganmukhuri or Kobuleti.
Casinos owners say, the overwhelming majority of their visitors are foreigners, mainly the citizens of Turkey, who come to Georgia for gambling. Thus, it is reasonable to conclude that gambling establishments attract tourists.
In some cities, especially in big ones, casino is considered to be a perfect employer: the standard of wage there can be compared to the average wage of a public servant and sometimes even exceeds it. 5, 5 thousand people were employed in gambling establishments in 2013 – that is 0.3% of the overall number of employees in Georgia.
Despite some obvious advantages of the existence of casinos, public opinion with regard to them in Georgia is rather negative: as many as 63% of respondents believe, gambling should be banned, and 29% would agree to partial restriction.
The first casino opened in Georgia as early as in 1921, but it was soon closed – gambling houses were prohibited in soviet times. However, there are data on the existence of clandestine gambling clubs: one of them was certainly operating in Batumi in 1989. The first legal casino appeared in Georgia in 1990 and, since that time, the industry has been continuously growing.