Bulgaria: Parliament Turns Down Gambling Ad Restrictions

A draft, proposing changes to the gambling regulations in Bulgaria was recently rejected by the country’s majority in Parliament. The draft called for changes to the Gambling Act in the country in an effort to reduce problem gambling and gambling harm. The rejected draft proposed the implementation of changes to the gambling advertising regulations in Bulgaria.

However, on Wednesday, a parliamentary majority voted against the proposal. In a 67-29 vote, the proposal was turned down with votes by three of the major parties in Bulgaria, Continue the Change – Democratic Bulgaria, GERB and DPS. The proposal that never saw the light of day was tabled by Vazrazhdane, the country’s nationalist party.

The drafted bill effectively called to strengthen the gambling advertising regulations, effectively prohibiting direct gambling ads. Beyond TV, the proposed ban extended to external advertising, with an exception allowed for buildings that house gambling devices such as slots for example and casinos.

Moreover, the draft sought to sever the existing ties between sports teams and gambling operators. Currently, popular sports in Bulgaria are funded by gambling operators and this extends beyond external advertisements and t-shirts to changing the names of some soccer stadiums. Under Vazrazhdane’s proposal, sports teams would have been granted a few years to end their contracts with gambling operators which would enable them to find new sponsors.

Not unexpectedly, the proposal included an exception for the country’s official lottery (BST). Lottery games would be permitted for advertising along with the publication of results, lottery draws and the announcement of winners.

Vazrazhdane’s draft proposal also called for increasing the fines against operators who do not adhere to the strict rules for gambling advertising. Besides fines, the draft proposed license revocation in cases where multiple breaches are observed.

Gambling Ads Continue to Run Rampant

A number of parties in the Bulgarian parliament voted in favor of the proposal. However, as noted, the draft never saw the light of day. Still, the initiative was backed by BSP for Bulgaria, the country’s socialist party, Vazrazhdane and There Is Such a People, a party founded by the famous media personality, Slavi Trifonov.

Members of Vazrazhdane spoke about the detrimental impact of gambling in Bulgaria. They warned that one in three families is affected by problem gambling, outlining the urgency of strict regulations and limitations for gambling ads.

Despite the outright ban on gambling advertisements on TV, operators in the country have found a loophole that allows them to advertise their products. Gambling ads can be seen on TV even during prime time which allows them to reach children and young adults. Popular sports stars, singers and media personalities are among the people who advertise gambling products.

Externally, many cities across the country that support their local teams display gambling ads together with their team’s flag for example. In some more serious cases, soccer stadiums are surrounded by gambling advertisements, promoting the operator that is sponsoring the team.