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May 22, 2024

The Game Changer: Bulgaria's New Gambling Laws


Key Takeaways

  • Major Overhaul: Bulgaria introduces significant changes to its Gambling Act, marking the most substantial amendments in nearly a decade.
  • Advertising Crackdown: The new laws impose strict restrictions on gambling advertising, effectively banning adverts across TV, radio, print, and online platforms, with limited exceptions.
  • Enhanced Regulations: Additional measures include increased minimum capital requirements for slot machine licenses and the introduction of a "social responsibility fee" to combat gambling addiction.

Bulgaria's gambling landscape has undergone a seismic shift with the recent changes to the country’s Gambling Act, which came into effect on May 17, 2024. The modifications, signed into law by President Rumen Radev, represent the most significant overhaul in almost ten years, with a particular focus on advertising restrictions. Here's an inside look at what these changes entail and their potential impact.

The Game Changer: Bulgaria's New Gambling Laws

Biggest Changes to Gambling Laws in Almost 10 Years

Previously, gambling operators in Bulgaria enjoyed the liberty of advertising with minimal restrictions, even during primetime TV hours. This has been dramatically transformed as the new laws now prohibit gambling advertising on TV, radio, print, and online platforms, with the sole exception being national sports tote draws.

These stringent advertising rules are complemented by additional restrictions, such as the requirement for outdoor gambling adverts to be placed at least 100 meters away from schools and to include responsible gambling messages.

The Crackdown on Advertising

The Council for Electronic Media, Bulgaria’s media watchdog, is tasked with monitoring illegal adverts. Offenders face hefty fines, and repeat violations could lead to the withdrawal of licenses. This bold move aims to curb gambling’s pervasive presence and promote responsible gambling practices.

Other Changes to Bulgaria’s Gambling Laws

The wave of reforms doesn’t stop at advertising. The laws also target operational aspects of gambling. For example, slots and casino gambling are now banned in areas with populations under 10,000, save for national resorts and border areas. Moreover, the threshold for the minimum capital required for slot machine licenses has been raised from BGN500,000 to BGN750,000.

In a novel approach to social responsibility, licensees are now required to pay a fee of BGN100,000 for online betting, with half of this amount allocated to the Ministry of Health for the treatment of gambling addiction. Additionally, the new legislation further protects vulnerable groups by preventing individuals receiving social assistance from removing themselves from the national gambling self-exclusion register.

The Bigger Picture

These reforms come in the wake of other regulatory measures aimed at tightening the reins on the gambling industry, including the establishment of a new money laundering unit by Bulgaria’s National Revenue Agency (NRA) in August 2023.

Despite the stricter regulatory environment, there are no indications that the variety of games available to players will be limited. The country’s casino industry, which has long been thriving, is expected to continue its operations, albeit under more stringent rules.

Conclusion

The recent overhaul of Bulgaria’s Gambling Act signifies a bold step towards a more regulated and responsible gambling industry. While these changes may pose challenges for operators, they also reflect Bulgaria’s commitment to combating gambling addiction and ensuring a safe gambling environment. As the dust settles, it will be intriguing to observe how these new regulations reshape Bulgaria’s gambling landscape.

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