Bulgarian Government Introduces Ban on Gambling Adverts

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At the end of last week, on May 17, 2024, the changes to Bulgaria’s Gambling Act, which bans gambling advertising in Bulgaria, officially became law.

Businesses were previously informed that following the publication of the changes in the State Gazette, they would have three days in which to adapt to them. The changes were published on Tuesday, May 14, 2024, after being signed by Bulgarian President Rumen Radev.

Biggest Changes to Gambling Laws in Almost 10 Years

The new laws are the first major changes to the country’s Gambling Act in close to a decade and the biggest changes relate to advertising. Until recently, gambling operators have faced almost no restrictions on advertising, including during primetime television broadcasts.

However, this has now completely changed. Outside gambling adverts may only be placed on billboards that are located at least 100 meters from schools, as well as on gaming halls and casinos. At least 10% of the advert must be taken up by responsible gambling messaging and the adverts must not include bonuses or promotional information to entice players.

It is no longer allowed to display gambling adverts on TV, radio, print, and online platforms. The only exception is television broadcasts of national sports tote draws. It will be up to Bulgaria’s media watchdog, the Council for Electronic Media, to monitor for illegal adverts. If found, the Council will notify the National Revenue Agency (NRA), Bulgaria’s gambling regulator, which can then impose penalties.

Adverts that are in breach of the ban can be punished with fines of up to BGN50,000 and repeat offenders may have their license withdrawn.

After its second reading, 198 MPs voted in favor of the bill, which was submitted by Temenuzka Petkova (GERB) and Yordan Tsonev (DPS). There were no absentees or abstentions. There has been a small backlash to the new regulations from some of the country’s biggest companies, which are worried that the advertising ban will undercut their budget. However, it seems likely that the ban will remain in place.

Other Changes to Bulgaria’s Gambling Laws

In addition to new advertising restrictions, the new laws also ban slots and casino gambling in areas that have a population of less than 10,000. The only exceptions to this are national resorts and border areas.

The bill has also increased the minimum amount of capital a company must hold in order to apply for slot machine licenses. In the past, companies have needed BGN500,000 and this has now been increased to BGN750,000.

Under the new laws, licensees now have to pay a “social responsibility fee”, which has been set at BGN100,000 for online betting. Half of this fee will go to the Ministry of Health to fund treatment for gambling addiction.

Another change to the law prevents people taking themselves off the national gambling self-exclusion register if they are receiving social assistance.

Tightening Regulations in Bulgaria

Over the last year, Bulgaria has introduced a number other changes to its gambling industry. In August 2023, the country’s National Revenue Agency set up a new money laundering unit to enforce anti-money laundering regulations, such as customer verification and transaction monitoring. The unit was created due to pressure from the Financial Action Task Force.

Furthermore, last year, the NRA also insisted that operators ban self-excluded staff from entering casinos or gambling halls.

However, while the Bulgaria is tightening up its gambling industry, there is no suggestion that it is set to limit what games players can enjoy. This means that whether playing in a land casino, or standard internet games such as online baccarat, blackjack, roulette, and slots are available. Furthermore, licensed sportsbooks also exist in the country.

While there is no doubt that it is becoming a more difficult environment for gambling operators, Bulgaria has long had a thriving casino industry and the new legislation is unlikely to change this.

Caroline Richardson
Caroline Richardson Read Bio
Hi all, I’m Caroline. I’m based in Boston, Massachusetts, with my husband and our three noisy and inquisitive kids. I began my career in journalism, working for several Boston-based....
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