It was a balmy mid-November 15 degree Celsius afternoon in the Black Sea resort of Sochi and I was walking back to the hotel with the German CEO of a global casino operator from a gambling conference we were attending.
“I don’t like gambling,” he said, walking at a brisk pace. “But people are going to gamble anyway and that’s why you need to regulate it. You can’t make it illegal.”
I thought of the incongruity of profiting off something you were against, like a recovering alcoholic owning a brewery, but he was right. Making things people enjoy illegal only puts these things in the hands of criminals.
Georgia made the first big step to regulate gambling in 2005, when it slapped a huge license fee for casinos in Tbilisi and reduced the fee in Batumi to attract casino development there. Today, however, nobody in government is taking gambling seriously, as if they are afraid to encourage the development of casinos, which contribute to 2 – 3 percent of the state budget. But with Moscow’s decision to permit gambling in Sochi, the Georgian government ought to be reconsidering its gambling policy if it doesn’t want to lose business and tax dollars to its northern neighbor.
My story about the advent of gambling in Sochi for Eurasianet is HERE.
And my story about gambling in Batumi on Beacon is HERE.