Georgia is nice . I mean not the US state but the country — former USSR republic. Sweet home for the Caucasus Mountain villages and the Black Sea beaches. Delicious, dizzy and soulful place in memory of its visitors.
But you can’t get by without laris (₾) here. Even though many of cafes, stores and hotels accept bank cards, and most of them support contactless payment, you still need
cash to buy churckhela from that granny over there.
Granny is one thing, but the matter is you need hard cash to pay for the most touristic spot in Tbilisi — the cable car up to Mother Kartli and the observation place — that is hurtful. Hard cash only, and no ATM in sight. But Tbilisi is so cute and slow,
why not hang around for 20 minutes chatting with the stray dogs, while one of your gang is running rounds seeking for the bank.
My professional deformation forces me to look for curiosities visible to a tourist eye. And there is one for sure.
European and Asian tourists are standing in front of the payment kiosks with their bank card in hand and perplexed grimace on the face. Kiosks
are seen every 50 meters or so, as opposed to ATMs. “ATM that does not give the cash out, but takes it in” ©
The concept of the offline-to-online payment system is only known to ex-USSR countries. Every time I mention them to non-CIS partners, I have to explain what this is and how you can pay virtually for anything — mobile phone or e-wallet top-up,
order on e-commerce website or simply make a money transfer local or overseas. The machines are connected to internet and work as a proxy for cash payments, converting them to online payments.
Kiosks here in Georgia are futuristic, they belong to 4 main operators: Gadaixade, Paybox, TBCPay и ExpressPay, two of the latter actually belong to banks. Each of them has some competitive edge: some services are cheaper or free, or more
The main thing is — all of these payment kiosks (just as offline advertisement around the city) are full with ads for casinos, lotteries, bookmakers, microfinancial lenders and pawnshops.
If there is risky business, there will be certain payment instruments. So usually the cycle goes like this: use cash to top up e-wallets through cash-accepting payment kiosks, play games, make bets, lose bets, get loans at the microfinancial
business, go to pawnshop.
As long as government is ok with it.
I had to take a look inside those kiosks under e-wallet category. Well, I guessed it, no surprises. Universal European Paysafe wallet that used to be prepaid anonymous card with certain value, Ukranian Portmone, too well-known Russian Moneta,
Webmoney, Qiwi, WalletOne, and Middle Eastern CashU. And some cryptocurrencies on top.
Alright, everything is crystal clear. The gaming business is doing well here, no limits on offline or online. Business gets done, games get played, money gets made.
Oh, Georgia is so lovely.