Georgia hikes gambling tax rates to curb increasing levels of participation

Georgia’s Prime Minister has increased taxes on the gambling sector after describing the gambling levels in the country as “catastrophic.” Prime Minister Irakli Gharibashvili, in his budget speech, said that sector turnover grew from GEL 48 billion to GEL 52 billion ($19.2 billion) in 2022. 

Gharibashvili expressed surprise at the increased participation rate, which took place despite a ban on advertising. Additionally, participation remained strong despite an increase in the minimum gambling age to 25, which has hindered 1.5 million young people from gambling.

In response, the government will raise the tax rate on gambling profits from 10% to 15%. There will also be a change in the withdrawal fee, with players now paying 5% instead of 2%. Gharibashvili expects that the rate changes will result in an additional GEL 400 million ($147.9 million) per annum.

Gharibashvili said: “I want to express surprise, on the one hand; on the other hand, it is very sad that the turnover of the gaming business is increasing. I am really not happy, too many citizens are still involved in the gaming business.”

“You know that we made important changes last year when we banned advertising and also restricted our citizens from participating in the gaming business to the age of 25. Automatically 1.5 million citizens have been restricted from participating in the gambling business. Despite this, we see that quite a few citizens are involved in it. Accordingly, we have made a decision to increase additional taxes on this business and, as we told you, GEL 400 million will be collected in addition.”

Earlier this year, Garibashvili approved a set of reforms for Georgia’s gambling laws, including new rules that limited online casinos to land-based organizations. Garibashvili had noted that the reforms were aimed at combating gambling harm, which officials said have become an issue in recent years, particularly among younger people.

The reforms imply the most significant change to the country’s gambling legislation since 2021, when Georgia attempted to revamp its regulatory structure in response to concerns about safer gaming amid the country’s growth as a land-based gambling hotspot.

The Georgian parliament then voted to increase the gambling age to 25, raise taxes on online gambling businesses by 70%, and ban TV advertising. It additionally restricted public employees and the self-excluded from participating in gambling.

The country’s ten land-based casino businesses, including the three largest, Casino Adjara, Crystalbet, and Iveria, would be permitted to have an online casino license under the new laws.

Similarly, internet slots would be limited to retail slots parlors, and sports betting to physical bookmakers. Additionally, online-only licenses will also be made available by the government at a fee of $1.7 million per license holder per year.