Bulgaria passes sweeping reforms of gambling ads rules

Bulgaria passes sweeping reforms of gambling ads rules

Bulgaria passes sweeping reforms of gambling ads rules
As Bulgaria is heading for another general election, the country’s parliament has passed sweeping and unexpected reforms to its gambling advertising rules, which will see the proliferation of gambling ads restricted across a number of previously popular media and formats, including radio, TV, physical spaces, and more. A proposal tabled by GERB-UDF, and the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF), passed all commissions before hitting the floor and getting a unanimous vote in favor of the measure late on Tuesday. The law was passed almost without any discussions on the parliamentary floor, while offering sweeping reforms of the sector. Most of these changes are for the better. The restriction of advertisements may seem harsh, but previous attempts to rein in gambling ads have left the country’s citizens exposed to a constant, incessant stream of advertisement materials prompting them to spend their money on gambling unchecked. Physical, digital, and legacy media advertisement was running rampant, without any clear rules to regulate it, other than a vague prerequisite about “direct advertisement” not being prohibited, but the law fell short of defining just what this meant, and thus allowed gambling ads to continue appearing unchecked across every consumer-focused medium available. The new law will now restrict the promotion of gambling in any form and prohibit any advertisement that directly entices or invites consumers to place a bet. A particularly good point of the new law is that it tries to root out how gambling companies tend to erroneously represent gambling as the means to financial independence or improving one’s financial or life situation. As per the new law, ads may not name games of chance or specific operators. There are some exceptions. For example, the Totalizator, the country’s National Lottery, will be spared the restriction, as the revenue proceedings from the lottery are allocated to various social goods, such as health and sports. Gambling ads may also appear on sports kits and sports facilities unless they are specifically designated to be used by children. One particularly smart measure passed by lawmakers is that winnings of BGN10,000 or roughly €5,000 will be paid right away. Previously, gambling halls and venues would ask gamblers to come back to get their winnings over a course of several days, hoping that they would spend more, or even lose the money. This was affirmed by lawmakers in the passing of the law. In the meantime, gambling operators will have to also invest about BGN750,000 in the regions they are located, prompting them to spend more heavily on the communities they impact, at least in theory. However, the law also comes with some shortcomings. For example, it misses the target of allowing self-excluded individuals to be limited to longer periods of self-exclusion. The current problem gambling registry in the country would allow players to delist from it within a month of signing. In the meantime, The Council for Electronic Media will make sure that the new rules are upheld. Image credit: Unsplash.com

01 MAY 2024

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