Bulgarian MPs want to restrict gambling advertisement

Bulgarian MPs want to restrict gambling advertisement

Bulgarian MPs want to restrict gambling advertisement
The status of gambling advertising has been in a state of limbo in Bulgaria, with the country formally not allowing gambling advertisements to appear in public places, although the practice is fairly common. Gambling ads have blared out of radio and TV sets, popped on Internet feeds, and occupied physical spaces across entire cities. Now, with a new election looming in the country, two parties, GERB-UDF and the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF), have put forward a new draft bill that seeks to introduce amendments to the Gambling Act and restrict both gambling advertisement as well as change the rules for allowing gambling venues in the first place. The changes seek to first prohibit gambling advertisements on any other medium but physical billboards. Yordan Tsonev, an MRF MP and co-sponsor of the bill together with his colleague from GERB-UDF Temenuzhka Petkova, said that even then, gambling operators would have to observe certain additional conditions. Such ads may not appear near schools, gyms, or sports halls. Further to the amendments, GERB-UDF’s proposals also seek to restrict gambling venues to villages, towns, or cities with more than 5,000 residents, affecting any existing venues that are operating in places that do not meet the population prerequisite. The proposal comes after GERB-UDF and MRF previously turned down another draft project put forward by Revival Party Leader Kostadin Kostadinov, who suggested a similar measure, but did not garner support from his political rivals at the time. Revival’s bill also sought to introduce penalties to media outlets that are pushing advertisements against what is legally allowed. Yet, defining media outlets has been a difficult task for regulators. The Council for Electronic Media has said that online websites publishing blogs and news are not necessarily qualified as media, and that the remit of the watchdog was seriously limited when it came to intervening in cases of gambling advertisement. The new draft bill also wants to increase the penalties for websites that facilitate illegal gambling to €100,000, as well as fine players who participate in illegal gambling anything between €500 and €2,500. Legal companies that want to apply for a slot license would also need to have cash on hand to the tune of €375,000, up from the previous €250,000. Tsonev and Petkova also want to see the regulator and ISPs block access to illegal gambling sites in a fashion similar to the measures used in other jurisdictions, including Australia and the Netherlands. The biggest issue to date, said the Council’s Chairperson Sonia Momchilova was that often gambling was depicted in ads as a way out of a difficult life situation, which was wrong. Yet, the watchdog is gridlocked in the same limbo that gambling advertisement is – it’s not necessarily legal, but it continues to appear across physical spaces. The former regulator in the country was also found unfit to oversee the industry, passing the baton onto the National Revenue Agency in 2021. In the meantime, the Bulgarian gambling industry is expanding rapidly. In 2022 alone, the industry contributed roughly €125m to the state’s coffers. Image credit: Unsplash.com

25 APR 2024

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