Major changes in Bulgarian gambling regulation

May 2024 – In a recent legislative update in the Bulgarian Gambling Act, major changes to regulations governing organisers of gambling games and activities and gambling advertisements have been introduced. Most of the amendments enter into force on 18 May 2024. These amendments entail substantial alterations to the activities of gambling organisers, bans on advertisements (including an updated definition of gambling advertisement), and measures affecting service providers connected with the gambling industry and can be divided into the following sample groups:

Advertisements ban

For example:

  • gambling advertisements on, among others, television, radio, newspapers and online media (including websites) have been totally banned;
  • gambling advertisements on billboards are only allowed if located further than 300 metres from specified educational and community establishments, such as kindergartens, schools, playgrounds, students’ accommodations;
  • gambling advertisements on sports equipment, materials and products are permitted unless intended for persons under 18 years old.

Changes in organising gambling games

For example:

  • the required paid-in capital to obtain a gambling license has increased by 50%, i.e. from BGN 500,000 (approx. EUR 255,000) to BGN 750,000 ( EUR 383,000);
  • gambling halls and casinos are mandated to close their premises within three years of the entry into force of the amendments (i.e. by 18 May 2027), if they are located in areas with fewer than 10,000 citizens or within 300 metres of specified locations (such as kindergartens, schools, playgrounds, students’ accommodations), with exceptions for certain tourist zones and border areas;
  • by 1 January 2025 the local gambling supervisory authority will expand its register of individuals banned from gambling to include three additional high-risk groups such as recipients of monthly social assistance benefits;
  • by 1 January 2025 organisers of online gambling must implement measures to limit behaviours endangering consumers' health and finances, including for example a maximum time spent on online betting sites. A minimum set of measures will be additionally defined.

Changes affecting service providers

For example:

  • electronic communications providers (e.g. internet service providers, telecom operators) are prohibited from granting access to internet pages offering gambling games by unlicensed entities;
  • payment institutions are barred from facilitating payments to or from unlicensed online gambling entities;
  • postal operators which provide the postal money order service (including couriers) are barred from facilitating payments (i) to or from unlicensed gambling entities and (ii) from persons under 18 years old to licensed gambling organisers.

These regulatory changes may have a profound impact on existing advertising agreements. The affected parties, such as media service providers and organisers of gambling games and activities, should consider whether these legislative amendments could serve as a ground for termination of the agreement without penalty (e.g. a force majeure event) for the party that cannot fulfill its obligations, (e.g. to advertise a gambling organiser). This is especially relevant in view of the broadcasting of the upcoming UEFA EURO 2024 in June and the Paris 2024 Olympics in July.

The current and future multi-million (and not only) land-based casino projects should also assess the impact of the legislative changes, e.g. whether they are affected by the requirement to close certain gambling halls and casinos.

Georgi Kanev Managing Associate
+359 2 9048 385
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