Bulgarian legislature abolishes State Gambling Commission

24 July 2020

A bill to abolish Bulgaria’s existing regulator and hand its duties to the National Revenue Agency, as well as to introduce new capital requirements for licensees, has been adopted by Bulgaria’s legislature after passing its second reading.

Bill 054-01-51 to Amend and Supplement the Gambling Act was introduced in June and approved by the Committee on Budgets and Finance, the Committee on Culture and the Media, the Committee on Children, Youth and Sport and the Committee on Budgets and Finance before being adopted on its first reading on 17 June.

Initially, the bill planned on creating a new regulator, the State Gambling Agency, which would be a new specialised body within the country’s Council of Ministers. However, it was amended by various members of the party GERB to instead allow the National Revenue Agency to take over this role.

It was then approved at its second reading yesterday (23 July), sending it to President Rumen Radev.

“The changes are aimed at clarifying the status of the gambling regulator and ensuring transparency in its work, which, in turn, will lead to optimisation and increase the quality of its activities,” one of the bill’s sponsors, Alexander Ivanov, said in a committee hearing.

The bill also sets out new capital requirements for licensees after an amendment put forward by Valeri Simeonov. This includes a BGN1m (£464,000/€511,000/$594,000) capital requirement for slot licensees, a BGN1.5m requirement for casino licensees and a BGN3m requirement for those offering online gambling.

Simeonov had previously introduced an amendment to the Bulgarian Gambling Act that outlined plans for the closure of all gaming halls other than a limited number of integrated casino resorts close to the country’s borders.

Bulgaria’s gambling sector has endured a turbulent time with Alexander Georgiev having resigned as its head in February following his detention by police in relation to an ongoing investigation into gambling mogul Vasil Bozhkov. Bozhkov was arrested in the UAE in February on charges he is facing at home of tax fraud, attempted bribery, and organised crime, with the Eurofootball business that he owns having its licence suspended by the SCC in March.

In January, Simeonov introduced a bill that would ban private lotteries in the country, effectively giving Sport Totalisator a monopoly for the vertical. This prompted sportsbook solutions provider Kambi to end its supply contract with 7777.bg operator National Lottery AD.