Gambling in Georgia: Second Report - საერთაშორისო გამჭვირვალობა - საქართველო

Gambling in Georgia: Second Report

30 September, 2015

Gambling is a well-developed industry in Georgia and a significant contributor to the country’s economy. The total turnover of the gambling business in 2014 was equal to GEL 658 million, while taxes (VAT, taxes on income and profit) as well as duties collected by the state from companies involved in gambling amounted to over GEL 177.5 million, or 2.3% of state revenues in 2014.

Income from gambling duties also represents an important part of the revenues of many cities and municipalities. In 2014, for example, income from gambling duties amounted to an average of 24% of the revenues of 6 large cities and of Kazbegi Municipality.

In order to measure public involvement in gambling, Transparency International Georgia conducted a public opinion survey with the help of Caucasus Research Resource Centers (CRRC). According to the survey:

  • 94% of respondents are not engaged in gambling. The majority of the remaining 6% give priority to online tote betting.
  • Most people involved in gambling for money do it for fun, and lose more often than not.
  • Only 2% of respondents reported that they or their family members have encountered significant financial problems due to gambling. Most of the problems reported arose over the last year.
  • Even though public involvement in gambling is low and only 2% have encountered significant financial problems because of it, a large part of the population (92%) has a negative attitude towards the industry and believes that it should be either banned (63%) or restricted (29%).

The prevalence of a negative public attitude towards gambling is common to many countries. Even though gambling is an important sector of the economies of many countries, including Georgia, it is often accompanied by negative externalities, such as: (1) problem gambling and the resulting financial / social problems; and (2) underage gambling. There is also a high risk of money laundering.

Problem gambling

  • Statistics on the number of gamblers and the amount of money lost by them in Georgia is not available. Therefore, it is impossible to say whether these rates are high or low. The government has not conducted any major studies into the gambling market that would evaluate risks and reveal the gravity of the problem.

Underage gambling

  • Even though Georgian legislation prohibits minors from gambling on money, and Georgian websites are obligated to require IDs for registration, serious shortcomings still exist. Specifically, the mechanism for verifying the validity of ID information used when registering for online gambling is very weak. It is possible to register by providing any 11 digit number in the personal identification number field. Users do not have to upload scanned copies of their IDs during registration, and the information provided is not verified.
  • Despite this shortcoming, the Revenue Service has not found any cases of underage gambling during the inspection of permit conditions, which likely points to the weakness of the control mechanism.

Money laundering

  • According to the 2012 report by Moneyval, the lack of information about suspicious deals in Georgia's growing gambling market indicates that gambling companies do not conduct proper monitoring of financial transactions.
  • This suspicion is further strengthened by information provided by the Ministry of Finance, according to which no money laundering cases have been investigated since 2010.

Control of permit conditions

  • According to the Revenue Service, all gambling establishments must be inspected at least once a year. The inspection of gambling establishments was launched in 2013 and a total of 1,104 inspections have been performed to date. Violations of permit conditions have been revealed in 716 establishments (65%). Violations have most often been found at tote and slot clubs.
  • The total amount of fines and penalties paid by gambling companies to the state budget for violating permit conditions amounted to GEL 537,000 in 2013, GEL 375,000 in 2014, and GEL 243,000 in January-May of 2015.


Georgia should keep its liberal approach to gambling, since this industry is closely linked to the development of tourism - one of the most important sectors of the Georgian economy. However, the government needs to do more in order to study and eliminate potential social risks related to gambling. It is difficult to say whether gambling in Georgia is accompanied by serious negative externalities, since the sector has not been studied well enough by the government and there is no clear state policy relating to it. Therefore, introducing serious restrictions on gambling would be unwise, even if the idea is supported by the majority of the population. We consider the following recommendations to be appropriate:

  • Develop a better understanding of the sector and a clear state policy – Relevant government bodies need to monitor and study the gambling sector regularly as well as evaluating and analyzing risks in order to correctly inform the public and develop a state policy. When considering the necessity to introduce new regulations, the government should use the experience of European countries with a more liberal approach to gambling.
  • Improve online registration processes– In order to prevent underage gambling, a better method of identification needs to be introduced to the registration process on gambling websites. One possible solution would be to cancel instant registrations and obligate gambling organizers to take some time to verify the identities of new users before informing them of the success or failure of their registration. The personal information provided by new users should be verified with the Public Registry database, while their identities should be confirmed directly via live video or personal contact.
  • Improve controls on suspicious financial transactions – The government needs to introduce more effective controls on financial transactions between parties involved in gambling. The information provided by the Ministry of Finance, according to which no money laundering cases have been identified to date, raises many questions. To this end, recommendations provided by Moneyval should be taken into account.

The report was prepared with the financial support of the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida). All opinions expressed herein belong to Transparency International Georgia and may not express the views of the donor.