Thursday June 23, 2011 : European Commission's detailed opinion could delay government plans to licence and regulate
Bulgaria's revised draft online gambling regulatory legalization presented to the European Commission for approval in May this year has again been given the thumbs down, according to early reports in the local media.
The controversial proposals, which many operators in both the land and online sectors have criticised as being discriminatory and unfair in nature, include restrictions on advertising in the European Union's newest member state.
Other areas for complaint are requirements that applicants for licenses must have five years of experience in the Bulgarian market; Bulgarian banks must be used; and a practical presence in the country will have to be established – all demands that have been found questionable in other regulatory attempts in Europe.
There are reportedly over 200 online gambling sites on the Web that offer action featuring Bulgarian language and both Lev and Euro currency. Gambling generally was legalised, taxed and regulated in 1993, with tough new restrictions and higher taxes imposed five years later, a move which did little to curtail the proliferation of land gambling establishments due to a liberal licensing regime.
The government was slow to turn online gambling to its advantage, and it was only in 2008 – prior to the country's acceptance into the EU – that legalization as a policy was accepted, with a tax rate based on profit of 17 percent, and state monopolised sports betting.
Although the full detailed opinion from the EC is yet to be published, the European Gaming and Betting Association, an online gambling trade body, has already warned that the Bulgarians need to reflect carefully on the Commission's views.
EGBA secretary general Sigrid Ligne said, “Some of the main requirements in the bill are not something that would motivate any operator to take a licence. There are lots of question marks still. We need to see how the government responds to the detailed opinion.”