Gambling industry in Bulgaria with Miglena Dimitrova (MDMI Legal) at CEEGC2018 Budapest

The organizers of the Central and Eastern European Gaming Conference (CEEGC) are honored to announce that Miglena Dimitrova (MDMI Legal) will join the panel discussion which focuses on the Eastern European gambling market updates. The Bulgarian gambling industry has shown significant growth in the last 10 years and in an Analysis of the Center for the Study of Democracy of Bulgaria the numbers have shown that revenues are rising significantly. In 2017 alone, the gambling industry reached US$1.8 billion. The study also shows that due to large tax benefits, the taxes paid in 2016 are only US$111 million. The data analysis shows a rapid and aggressive expansion of the gambling industry in Bulgaria. However, gambling advertising could be restricted further in Bulgaria as a bill on the matter gained earlier this month the 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.

Moody’s Amadeus data also shows that in Bulgaria there are 1,327 companies registered that engage in betting and gambling. The recent updates of the Bulgarian market and some insights into investing opportunities will be shared during the panel discussion which will feature briefings about the state of the industry in Romania, Bulgaria, Ukraine and Belarus. Miglena Dimitrova is a founding partner in MDMI Legal law firm, heading the gambling law team. Miglena Dimitrova is an IP and regulatory lawyer and mediator. Her main areas of practice include IP and regulatory matters, focusing mainly on online media, financial services and gambling. Miglena has extensive experience in the gambling application procedure before the Bulgarian State Gambling Commission, as well as in all other aspects of gambling legislation, and has advised the largest international gambling operators, associations and platform providers. She is a regular speaker at national and international gambling conferences. The 2018 edition of the “bombastic gaming seminar” will be held at The Ritz-Carlton on the 25th of September and the event promises to once again bring the quality content and networking opportunities for attending delegates. The subtitle of the 2018 event is “The age of Machine Intelligence and how regulators must keep up with technology” and the agenda is full of high quality content. CEEGC 2018 will once again feature regulatory and compliance related panel discussions about Romania, Bulgaria, Ukraine, Belarus, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland, but will also focus on Responsible Gambling, AML, Licensing Procedures in the European Union, Innovation and will feature a special IMGL MasterClass™.

Make sure you grab your seat in time and attend the most prestigious boutique style gaming event which gather C-level executives yearly in one of Europe’s most visited city.

About the organizer, European Gaming Media and Events (formerly EEGMedia/EEGEvents) European Gaming Media and Events is a leading media and boutique event organizer company in the European Union. The live events/conference division is in charge of organizing boutique style executive gaming events that focus on bringing inside information from the top gaming experts in the European Union and beyond. Their first event was held in Budapest on the 19th of September 2016. Since then the team have implemented more destinations into their event portfolio. In short, they cover most areas of Europe with international events that serve the local and global industry, optimize networking opportunities and bring the hottest topics into scope. The event destinations include Vienna, Prague, Budapest, Riga and Ljubljana with special focus around emerging markets. For more details about the calendar, agendas and locations, visit the Live Events/Conferences section on europeangaming.eu [1]

Bulgarian Prime Minister accepts assistance on gambling bill

The second major party that assists the gambling bill is the Bulgarian Socialist Party.

In this week, the Deputy Prime Minister Valeri Simeonov revealed that the Bulgarian Socialist Party is the second big party in the country to support a gambling bill. The previous party provides its full support rather than the ruling party, Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria (GERB).

Simeonov said, after a meeting with BSP leader Kornelia Ninova, that the bill is strongly positioned among politicians and society. The ruling party of the country, Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria, is expected to support the bill on gambling, and study the proposed amendments in the nearing days.

BSP leader Kornelia Ninova said to the local press that it was not common that parties from the government coalition were seeking support from opposition parties. She added that coalition partners proposing own bills instead of submitting a joint proposal in line with the government programme could be in violation of the parliament state rules. Nevertheless, after the meeting she agreed to work as an intermediary to present the bills to Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF). [2]

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 vote and there would probably be little hurdles to obstruct its implementation.

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. [3]

Bulgaria’s Gambling Market Worth Nearly $2 Billion in 2017

Bulgaria-facing gambling operators generated the total amount of BGN3 billion (approximately $1.9 billion) in revenue in 2017, local media reports. The local gambling market more than doubled from a decade ago, following the introduction of revised gambling regulations in 2013.

Scratchcards maintained their growth momentum and were once again the highest grossing segment within Bulgaria’s gambling industry. This type of product began gaining widespread popularity in the Southeast European country several years ago. Scratchcards quickly became the market leader through aggressive marketing on different media outlets and due to the fact that many dp not perceive it as a form of gambling.

While there is still no information about the revenue generated from scratchcards in 2017, it should be noted that that particular segment produced revenue of around BGN320 million in 2016, up nearly 30% year-on-year. National Lottery and Lottery Bulgaria are known to be the largest scratchcard sellers in the country. Both companies are owned by Bulgarian businessman Vasil Bozhkov, one of the country’s richest men who has often appeared in local media for alleged criminal ties.

As many as 1,327 companies are licensed to operate gambling services in Bulgaria, both remotely and at land-based facilities. However, recent data shows that although the country’s gambling market seems to be growing rapidly, licensed operators have been slammed by industry critics for contributing to the nation’s coffers just a minuscule portion of what they generate annually.

No Corporate Tax

According to official data, licensed gambling operators paid the amount of BGN177 million in taxes to the country in 2016. In 2017, gambling taxes totaled BGN144 million during the first nine months of the year.

The Bulgarian government has previously introduced tax breaks for companies operating in the country’s gambling field to encourage investment. Licensed operators are thus not paying a corporate tax and are instead subjected to an alternative tax.

It is also important to note that the country taxes operators of different gambling services in a different manner. Land-based gaming facilities pay taxes depending on the number of gaming devices they feature.

Remote gambling operators are taxed at 20% on gambling revenue. They are also required to pay a one-off licensing fee of BGN100,000. Online gambling companies were previously taxed at 15% on their turnover, but the tax base was changed with the re-regulation of the local market in 2013.

The growth of the local gambling industry has been met with growing criticism and concerns over the impact gaming and betting activities have on population. According to local media reports at least 40% of the country’s residents have engaged in what has been described as a soft form of gambling. And the rate of people engaging in gambling activities of different nature, including online gaming and betting and scratchcards, has been rising just as rapidly as the market has been growing over the past several years.

Under the country’s regulations, licensed gambling operators are required to contribute funds to responsible gambling initiatives and organizations tasked with the treatment of people suffering from gambling addiction. In 2016, the amount of BGN2 million was contributed to responsible gambling causes. However, it should be noted that an industry worth several billion Bulgarian leva probably needs to be more generous toward initiatives related to the prevention of societal issues. [4]