25 Jan, 2024
Amidst the news of increased gambling controls by the Georgian government, the SiGMA News team posed some clarifying questions to the Georgian Gambling Association (GGA). George Mamulaishvili, GGA’s head of administration, commented on the restrictive measures the state intends to take in the near future.
How does Georgia monitor gambling offences?
The monitoring system in Georgia has already been in place since 2021 and company data is received daily by the organization, which analyzes them and passes them to the tax inspectorate. This is a complex process and it should be constantly developed. As the gambling business is constantly integrating new technologies, it is necessary to improve the system of monitoring and accounting of bets.
However, both online and offline accounting will take place in real time. Real-time accounting makes the business more transparent.
Will the government block payment systems?
The government, with the help of interested community and business, constantly combats illegal operators and tries as much as possible to make them uncomfortable in transfers. But we know that there are many ways to fund accounts with illegal means, such as crypto wallets and e-money.
There is only one way to fight against illegal operators, and it has been proven in practice many times: the development of a local legal operator contributes to the reduction of illegal operators. And the ban, on the contrary, contributes to their development and increase of illegal money turnover.
Payment systems in Georgia are very well developed and blocking of systems for legal operators is not considered. Every operator must comply with the rules set by the regulator and the National Bank: development of user verification and identification system, as well as compliance with AML and KYC rules. Every legal operator complies with these rules.
In your opinion, how realistic is the Prime Minister’s intention to ban gambling in the country?
Online casinos in Georgia are not in danger of being banned. Firstly, online casinos are major contributors to the State budget. Secondly, banning online casinos will only lead to the emergence of additional illegal operators that bring harm to both the government and society.
Bans, as I have said many times, don’t do any good. We have seen the practice of different countries when illegal operators appeared after a ban and it had a negative impact on both society and the government.
A legal operator not only plays by the rules and pays taxes. It develops related business sectors, such as IT, payment systems, and sports. For example, in 2022 operators paid more than 700 million GEL ($264 million) in taxes to the state budget. Therefore, the gambling business should be legal and controlled by the state.
How many registrations are there now on the government’s Gaming Addict Database?
I would divide this base into two parts. According to the law of Georgia, any citizen can exclude himself from gambling not only with the state, but primarily with the operator. Therefore, the state’s database does not give complete statistics of gambling addiction in Georgia. There are also registered users who simply want to exclude themselves access to gambling. But that doesn’t mean they are gambling addicts.
As of today there are 12,720 people registered in the database, 39 of them by court order. I believe that just these 39 people are gambling addicts. Even if we take all registered people who have self-banned access to gambling, their percentage does not exceed the average number of gambling addicts in the world – 0.3% of the country’s population.
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