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Bulgaria government votes in favour of gambling advertising ban

Bulgaria is set to ban almost all gambling advertising after its government overwhelmingly voted in favour of a bill to introduce new rules and regulations on the issue.

Submitted last week ↗, the bill aims to amend Bulgaria’s law on gambling. It proposes a ban on gambling advertising online, on television, on the radio and in print media. Ads would also not be allowed to appear on buildings.

The bill was submitted jointly by the GERB-UDF and the Movement for Rights and Freedoms.

New rules now look set to come into effect. Some 198 MPs voted in favour of the bill at a second reading session yesterday (30 April), with no absentees or abstentions.

This approval means the bill will enter into force three days after its promulgation in the State Gazette. It is not clear when this will take place.

What are the new rules in Bulgaria?

The bill aims to amend Bulgaria’s law on gambling. It includes various other changes to law in the country, with new advertising the headline amendment.

Along with setting out where adverts cannot be displayed, the bill also includes information on where ads are permitted. Adverts will only be allowed on billboards more than 100 metres from schools and on gaming halls and casino buildings.

However, the ban will not apply to television broadcasts of Bulgarian sports tote draws.

Adverts that do appear must also carry responsible gambling messaging. This, the bill states, must cover at least 10% of each advert and provide relevant information to consumers.

Operators that do not comply with the new measures could face financial penalties of up to BGN50,000 (£21,842/€25,565/$27,285). Repeat offenders could also see their licence in Bulgaria withdrawn. 

The Council for Electronic Media will oversee compliance with the rules. In the case of any violations, it will refer the matter to the Bulgarian National Revenue Agency (NRA). 

Further amendments to gambling law

Other measures in the now-approved bill include increasing the amount of capital companies must have to apply for slot machine licences. This will now rise from BGN500,000 to the higher amount of BGN750,000.

The bill also only permits slots and casino gambling in areas with a population over 10,000. Exceptions apply to national resorts and border areas. Earlier this month, Romania’s parliament voted to implement a similar proposal ↗

Meanwhile, licensees will now have to pay a “socially responsible fee”, which is being set at BGN100,000 for online betting. Of this, 50% will go to the ministry of health to help treat and support gambling addicts.

Among the other amendments is a block on people being able to take themselves off the national self-exclusion gambling register if they are receiving some form of social assistance. 

Bulgaria: an evolving gambling market

These new measures are among just some of the latest changes to gambling regulation in Bulgaria.

Last August, the NRA launched a new money laundering unit ↗ to enforce anti-money laundering requirements. This covers key issues such as customer verification and transaction monitoring. 

Also last year, the NRA ordered operators to ban self-excluded staff from entering casinos ↗ or gambling halls.

The NRA took control of gambling regulation in the country after Bulgaria abolished the State Gambling Commission ↗ in 2020. 

James Mackreides
James Mackreides
'Mac' is a short tempered former helicopter pilot , now a writer based in Sofia, Bulgaria. Loves dogs, the outdoors and staying far away from the ocean.

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