European countries have a freehand in regulating their land-based and online gambling industry, being partly exempt from following universal EU gambling laws. Bulgaria for one, which has been a European Union (EU) member since 2007, enacted its Gambling Act in 2012. Although the country’s regulation of the gambling industry was deemed stable for several years, the Act was amended in February 2021, to shift regulation of the gambling industry from the stand alone State Gambling Commission (SGC) to the government’s tax administrator, the National Revenue Agency (NRA).
As it was, Bulgaria’s ruling party GERB succeeded in passing a bill that proposed the replacement of the SGC following controversial allegations of corruption among SGC officials.
While the World Bank ranks Bulgaria as an upper-middle class country, it has been reported to have exhibited the least economic growth in the past years if compared to other Euroean nations. The country has strong economic support from its mining, construction, agricultural, tourism and technology services industries. However, organized crime and political corruption are the perceived problems that Bulgaria has been facing for years.
A Close Look at Bulgaria’s Online Gambling Industry
In 2014, the country’s parliament passed legislation to approve the addition of the online gambling sector. So far, online gambling has been a strong and stable economic resource even during the global economic downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to Statista (August 2022), the largest generator of remote gambling revenues is the sports betting sector. Sports betting in the country was able to surpass the 2020 revenue forecast of USD 216 million by way of online applications. Yet based on recent trends, the current expectation is that mobile sports betting apps is expected to overshadow the web-based application in reaching the projected revenues of USD325 million in year 2025.
The Future of Bulgaria’s Land-Based Casinos
While the country’s remote gambling sector has been providing a stable source of economic income, the opposite is true for the country’s land-based casino sector. As a result, the right-wing NFSB has put forward a bill proposing the forced-closure of 600 land-based casinos by 2025 and that land-based gambling venues should be allowed only in five-star hotels and in casino resorts situated within 20 kilometers of the border. Although the party acknowledges that the proposed bill is unpopular, the goal is to limit ca sino gambling to foreign tourists. Besides, the move would mean that all Bulgarians visiting land-based casinos can be checked against records of known gambling addicts.
Nevertheless, inasmuch as remote gambling is already highly favored in the country, many of the land-based operators are poised to offer online their casino games, such as slots, blackjack, baccarat, poker and roulette. Betmarket for one is all set to launch its online gambling platform by the end of 2022, offering online casino games deployed by gaming software providers Amusnet, EGT, CT Gaming, Pragmatic Play and Wazdan.