Grappling with widespread poverty and the need for cash to finance multi-faceted reforms, President Mikheil Saakashvili’s administration in Georgia is pumping up gambling as a revenue solution. For now, though, foreign investors don’t like the odds of success.
Surrounded by countries where gambling is prohibited or severely restricted, Georgian officials believe that the South Caucasus country has a geographic advantage in the gaming business. They envision a steady stream of foreigners from Turkey, Azerbaijan, Armenia, and the Middle East ready to flock to Georgia to place bets.
Given a general downturn in the European gaming industry, it would seem a big gamble to place so much faith in casinos. Nevertheless, about 120 casino industry executives attended a Casino Investors’ Congress held recently in Batumi. The occasion marked Georgia’s first pow-wow for potential casino investors.
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Paul Rimple is a freelance reporter based in Tbilisi.