Date: 20.05.2024

by Adam Dworak

Bulgaria Enacts Comprehensive Ban on Gambling Advertisements

Bulgaria has implemented a sweeping ban on gambling advertisements across television, radio, print, and online platforms. This legislative change, officially published in the State Gazette and signed off by President Rumen Radev, was enacted despite strong opposition from gambling operators and media outlets.

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The new law, which came into force following a vote by Bulgarian legislators, prohibits most forms of gambling advertising. Exceptions include billboards situated more than 100 meters away from schools and advertisements on the buildings of gaming halls and casinos. These permissible ads must feature responsible gambling messages that cover at least 10 percent of the ad space.

Violations of this ban can result in fines of up to BGN50,000 (€25,570). Repeat offenders face the risk of having their licenses withdrawn. However, television broadcasts of national sports tote draws are exempt from these new rules.

Legislative Background

The bill saw significant support in the Bulgarian parliament, with 198 MPs voting in favor during its second reading. The proposal was originally submitted by Temenuzka Petkova (GERB) and Yordan Tsonev (DPS).

New Regulations for Gambling Machines

In addition to advertising restrictions, the legislation introduces new rules for gambling machines. The bill bans slot machines and casino gambling in areas with populations under 10,000, with exceptions for national resorts and border areas.

Financial and Social Responsibility Measures

The legislation also increases the minimum capital requirement for companies applying for slot machine licenses from BGN500,000 to BGN750,000. Furthermore, it imposes a BGN100,000 “social responsibility fee” on online gambling operators, with half of this fee allocated to the Ministry of Health to fund gambling harm treatment and support programs.

Self-Exclusion Register Reforms

Another significant change is the amendment to the national gambling self-exclusion register. Individuals receiving social assistance will no longer be able to remove themselves from the self-exclusion list. This measure aims to provide additional protection for vulnerable populations.

Enforcement and Compliance

The Council for Electronic Media will oversee compliance with the new advertising rules. Violations will be referred to the Bulgarian National Revenue Agency (NRA), which regulates gambling activities within the country.

Context and Comparisons

This legislative change follows a parliamentary vote last month that rejected a previous proposal to ban gambling advertising. The new bill represents a more stringent approach to regulating the gambling industry in Bulgaria. Meanwhile, in a related development, Romania has implemented its own restrictions, banning slot machines in towns with populations under 15,000.