Tbilisi Gaming Festival

Navigating the Casino Landscape in Georgia: Insights from the Tbilisi Gaming Festival
The Tbilisi Gaming Festival held on September 15-16, 2023, brought together industry experts and casino operators to discuss the ever-evolving landscape of land-based casinos in Georgia. Among the discussions, the panel focused on “Land-Based Casino Operators in Georgia – Opportunities and Challenges of the Growing Market.” John Harrak, Director VIP & Player Development, Executive Board Member of Storm International – a prominent figure in the industry, shared valuable insights on several key topics.

Adapting to Post-Pandemic Trends and opportunities, challenges within the growing market in Georgia
John began by addressing the market trends in Tbilisi, noting that the casino industry was gradually recovering from the pandemic’s impact. While Tbilisi and Batumi represent distinct markets, he highlighted Tbilisi’s appeal as the capital city, offering a range of attractions for players and their families. With a majority of players being foreigners, Tbilisi’s summer season remained vibrant, dispelling concerns about seasonal fluctuations.

Regarding the state of the casino business in Georgia, John Harrak emphasized that it was not in a developmental phase but a fully developed industry. New casinos continually enter the market, but they do so within an already mature sector. He stressed the importance of maintaining high service standards and adapting to evolving customer needs to thrive in this competitive environment.

Navigating Prohibited Advertising
A major challenge facing land-based casinos in Georgia is the prohibition of advertising, which aims to protect the local market. However, John explained that more than 90% of their visitors are foreigners, and the goal is not to attract Georgian players. The advertising restrictions primarily affect online casinos, creating a challenge for land-based operators. Despite these challenges, John emphasized the necessity of advertising to ensure a steady influx of customers.

Coexistence and Cooperation
“All the players that are coming to Batumi are already spoiled. Most of them went to Cyprus and Cyprus has very few government regulations. In general, Batumi has great operators with even greater service levels. They understand what they can do to make sure the business is safe. They protect and look out for their customers.”- John highlighted the unique dynamic and collaborative spirit among casino operators in Georgia.

Maintaining a Skilled Workforce
Addressing the issue of retaining staff, John noted that the casino business is typically favored by younger individuals. In Tbilisi, where there is an established casino presence, attracting and retaining staff is somewhat easier. Shangri La, for instance, runs training schools to nurture young talents and offers them opportunities for career advancement. The focus is not solely on monetary incentives but on providing a pathway to a promising future. This approach helps mitigate the challenges of staff turnover.

Supporting the Government and Industry
John emphasized the importance of collaboration between the government and the casino industry. Casinos have actively supported government initiatives, recognizing the mutual benefits of a thriving tourism and entertainment sector. This collaborative spirit has been particularly crucial during the pandemic, highlighting the intertwined interests of both parties.

In conclusion, the panel discussion shed light on the intricacies of operating land-based casinos in Georgia. Despite challenges such as advertising restrictions and staff retention, the industry continues to grow and adapt. The harmonious coexistence of operators and their support for government initiatives bode well for the future of the casino industry in Georgia.