Irakli Garibashvili, the Prime Minister of the Republic of Georgia, has announced government plans to increase gross gaming revenue tax (GGR) for online casino and betting operators from 10 percent to 15 percent starting from January 2024.
A player winnings tax on withdrawals from online casinos and bookmakers will be raised from 2 to 5 percent at the same time, the Prime Minister said.
“I would like to express, on the one hand, my surprise, and on the other hand, my sadness that the turnover of the gaming business is growing,” Garibashvili said.
His comments come in the context of tough measures taken by the government during the last couple of years, in an attempt to restrict the gambling market.
Advertisements were mostly banned and the minimum age to gamble has been raised to 25, as have taxes both for operators and players.
Despite this, turnover from the domestic gambling sector increased from GEL48bn ($17bn) to GEL52bn ($19bn) in 2022.
“Last year we had big changes, when we banned advertising and banned gambling for people under 25 years old, thus blacklisting 1.5 million citizens," said the Prime Minister.
While announcing the new taxes, Garibashvili highlighted that he expects GEL400m ($148m) to be added to the budget next year as a result of the online tax hike.
In total, the government plans to receive GEL700m ($259m) of revenue from the entire Georgian gaming business.
Giorgi Mamulaishvili, the head of the Administration of Gaming Business Association of Georgia (GGA), a local trade group, greeted the changes negatively.
In his opinion, frequent changes of legislation and taxation will scare investors.
"If we compare Georgia with the neighbouring Kazakhstan, investors do not enter Kazakhstan precisely because it does not have a guarantee of security and it is not sure that taxes will not increase next year," said Mamulaishvili.
According to the GGA, taxing winnings 5 percent will negatively impact the market, as players will start looking for alternative ways to gamble without the need to pay high taxes.
"When the withdrawal commission increases [for] the customer, he will always think whether it is worth it for him to receive services in the Georgian market, he will start looking for alternatives.
“Consequently, this will lead to the fact that the Georgian customer will slowly start switching to the foreign markets, which, of course, are not legal in Georgia," said the head of the GGA.
Taxation of land-based casinos is expected to remain unchanged, as these operators are paying fixed and high amounts for the licences and each unit of gaming equipment. The state fees for the land-based casino sector in Georgia are already among the world’s highest.