Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan wants Georgia to close its casinos because too many Turkish citizens are crossing the border to gamble in the neighbouring Georgia.
Gambling in Turkey is highly regulated; the country banned casinos in 1998 and it banned non-state online gambling in 2006.
Georgia’s former Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili mentioned Erdogan’s wish when he met Georgia’s regional media representatives earlier this month.
A journalist asked Ivanishvili his opinion of gambling in Georgia. In response, the former Prime Minister remembered his meeting with the Turkish President where Erdogan asked him to use his influence to help close casinos located near Georgia's border with Turkey.
Ivanishvili said he personally did not like casinos but it was a type of business and it served a purpose.
I remember when I had a meeting with Erdogan the first thing he asked me was to close these casinos. Many come from Turkey to play here and [they] lose a fortune but what can we do? This is a type of business. People like it and it boosts tourism,” Ivanishvili said
To be honest I would be happy to ban gambling but this contributes to our economy so we can’t have very strict approach,” he added.
Ivanishvili suggested an amendment to Georgain legislation where minors would be banned from entering a casino.
Or we can even ban entrance for locals and casinos be only open to tourists,” he added.
Ivanishvili stressed casinos contributed a lot to the Georgian economy, particularly in the Adjara region which lies just across Turkey’s northeastern border and contains the city of Batumi, a major tourist hub on the Black Sea coast.
Gambling news portal calvinayre.com reported eleven casino permits had been issued in Batumi compared to just three in the capital Tbilisi. Batumi’s municipal budget derived 20.2m GEL (US $8.7m) from all gambling fees and taxes, of which 81 percent came from its casino operations.
Georgia imposes an annual fee of five million GEL ($2.1m) on casinos but Batumi charges only 250,000 GEL ($108,000) and this fee can be waived entirely if the casino operator is willing to build a new hotel with at least 100 rooms. The state also imposes quarterly fees per slot machine and gaming table.
In 2012 Turkey and Georgia signed a deal that relaxed restrictions on each other’s citizens crossing their shared border. The gambling news portal wrote that almost immediately Turkey’s Ambassador in Batumi reported that hordes of Turks would "close their shops and head straight to the casinos here.”
Turkish wives were reportedly calling the Ambassador’s office demanding he find their husbands and send them home,” calvinayre.com wrote.