Turkey’s Erdogan wants Georgia to close casinos

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 country.

Turkey.- Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s President, 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 as the country banned casinos in 1998 and non-state online gambling in 2006.

Earlier this month, Georgia’s former Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili mentioned Erdogan’s wish when he met Georgia’s regional media representatives. A journalist asked Ivanishvili his opinion of gambling in Georgia and 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 explained that 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.”

Ivanishvili suggested an amendment to Georgain legislation to ban minors from entering a casino or even ban entrance for locals limiting casinos to tourists. However, Ivanishvili outlined casinos’ contribution 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.

Currently in Georgia, eleven casino permits had been issued in Batumi compared to just three in the capital Tbilisi. Batumi’s municipal budget derived 20.2m GEL (€7.75 million) from all gambling fees and taxes, of which 81 percent came from its casino operations. Georgia imposes an annual fee of five million GEL (€1.87 million) on casinos but Batumi charges only 250,000 GEL (€96,200) 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.

Back in 2012, Turkey and Georgia signed a deal that relaxed restrictions on each other’s citizens crossing their shared border. However, Turkey’s Ambassador in Batumi reported that hordes of Turks would “close their shops and head straight to the casinos here.”