Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili announced the Government is considering toughening regulations on online casinos and the selling of psychopharmaceuticals.
Speaking at a Government meeting on November 22, the Prime Minister said authorities are considering hiking taxes for online casino owners, barring the businesses from advertising, and raising the minimum required age for online gambling from 18 to 25. According to PM Garibashvili, the next step should be outlawing online gambling altogether.
“The issue of gambling business and online casinos worries each citizen very much,” the PM argued, adding that gambling losses contribute to flowing about GEL 1.5 billion (USD 480 million) out of the country as much of the online casinos are foreign-owned.
Noting that “99% of the losses” come from impoverished, unemployed citizens, the Prime Minister said, in particular, “youngsters play in online casinos every day and lose.”
He did not delve into further details about the initiative but noted that Finance Minister Lasha Khutsishvili will present a legislative initiative for the proposed restrictions on online gambling.
In the same meeting, PM Garibashvili highlighted the “significantly liberalized” policy toward drug addiction as another issue affecting the youth. “Instead of doing sports, studying, and working, our youth are consuming harmful substances,” he argued.
He proposed to toughen up rules on the selling of psychotropic drugs at pharmacies, adding the Government will continue discussions on the matter. Without providing any further specifics about the initiative, PM Garibashvili said he would personally oversee efforts to enforce the tougher rules.
Ana Dolidze, For People party leader, expressed hopes that PM Garibashvili’s initiative on banning online casinos will be implemented. But, she noted that “we have seen a lot of superficial statements” by PM Garibashvili, expressing doubts the issue will remain on the Government’s agenda.
Asked if the initiative could be targeted at depriving government-critical TV networks of online casino advertisement revenues, For Georgia party’s Kakha Kemoklidze said any proposal that could possibly harm any broadcaster, notwithstanding its editorial policy, is problematic. But he maintained that if online gambling needs to be regulated, it should be.
Parliament Vice-Speaker Levan Ioseliani, of the opposition Citizens party, backed the Georgian PM’s proposal, arguing regulations restricting online gambling “have been a long time due.” “It must not be that in a poor country the most lucrative companies are connected to the gambling business,” he asserted.
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