Bill Aiming to Restrict Gambling Advertising in Bulgaria Gains Support from Two Major Parties

Gambling advertising could be restricted further in Bulgaria as a bill on the matter gained earlier today support from the ruling Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria party (GERB) as well as from the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP), in a rare case of political concord on a given issue between the country’s major parties.

Sponsored by Deputy Prime Minister Valery Simeonov, the bill calls for the introduction of stricter controls on the way gambling products and services are advertised across Bulgarian media. If it comes into force, it will close loopholes in the country’s current gambling advertising regulations that make it possible for operators to indirectly advertise their products despite an overall ban on direct advertising.

Minister Simeonov met Thursday morning with representatives from GERB and BSP, seeking support for his gambling advertising bill as well as for several other non-gambling legislative pieces.

Leaders of both GERB and BSP told Minister Simeonov that they would back the proposed changes as these would curb the aggressive promotion of gambling services across television, radio, and the Internet.

Following today’s meeting, GERB leader Tsvetan Tsvetanov said that current regulations are creating favorable conditions for overly extreme promotion of various gambling-related products. The politician further pointed out that the current state of affairs represents an epidemic that plagues the youngest members of the country’s population as well as people of lower financial status who seem to be susceptible to the allure of gambling activities.

Socialist Party leader Korneliya Ninova said today that they believe the proposed legislation would provide the necessary controls and that they would support it. Ms. Ninova added that taxing gambling companies at a lower rate, while imposing heavy taxes on children’s food represent rather odd policy-making approaches that prioritize the country’s gambling industry over its youngest residents.

Ms. Ninova’s comments could have suggested that changes in the way gambling companies are taxed in Bulgaria could also be brought up for consideration, although she did not dwell further on the matter.

After his meetings, Minster Simeonov pointed out that with support from two major parties his legislative proposal would probably pass a parliamentary voteand there would probably be little hurdles to obstruct its implementation.

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Gambling Advertising in Bulgaria

Direct advertising of gambling products and services is prohibited in Bulgaria under the country’s current gambling law. However, there have been certain loopholes in the existing regulations that have allowed gambling operators to promote their activities indirectly on television and radio.

As a result, the names of gambling products, including scratchcards and different games, as well as the names of the companies behind any such activities can be mentioned across media under certain circumstances, and this is not considered illegal. For instance, special programs during which draws of the Bulgarian Sports Totalizator take place or the results from or the winners of different gambling activities are announced are often used to as a way for different gambling products to be advertised indirectly. Such programs are usually broadcast around or during prime time.

Minister Simeonov’s bill aims to close such loopholes and to urge the country’s gambling regulator, the Bulgarian State Gaming Commission, to adopt harsher policies in relation to the regulation and prevention of aggressive gambling advertising.

Bulgaria’s gambling market was worth BGN3 billion (approximately $1.9 billion) in 2017, as Casino News Daily reported last month citing local news outlets. The Southeast European country has seen its gambling industry grow at a stable pace since the introduction of its current gambling law back in 2013. The massively popular scratchcards have been the main driver of growth over the past several years. Revenue from those totaled BGN320 million in the year to December 2016, up nearly 30% from 2015.

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