Gambling in Bulgaria
Gambling in Bulgaria is legal and has been developing quite rapidly regardless of the difficult economic situation. The appropriate gambling laws require licenses to be issued by State Commission on Gambling. At the present time the most widespread practice in the Bulgarian gambling market is setting up and selling land-based casinos. Both online and offline operations are being regulated by domestic gambling laws. Slot machines are the ones that are most popular among the Bulgarian players, including the products by domestic supplier named Casino Technology. Sports betting, horse racing and online poker have been officially legalised in the country since 2011.
The Gambling industry has been in existence in Bulgaria for about 30 years. The very first casino was opened in the country's capital Sofia as far back as 1979 and was named Vitosha. The casino was located in the hotel with the same name. Over time, gambling establishments sprang up in resort towns on the Black Sea. Access to the very first casinos in the country was open only to the citizens of the countries that were not members of the Socialist Bloc.
Casinos in Bulgaria
Land-based casinos are spread evenly throughout the entire country. Many of them are located in resort areas. The list of the most popular gambling establishments in the country includes London Club in Sofia, Royale Palms Casino in Burgas and Black Sea and Сasino Hotel Оceanic in Varna. Popular games in Bulgarian casinos are slot machines, roulette games, card games and dice. The casinos do not normally have a strict dress code. Yet no people in uniforms are allowed to enter. Entry into gaming establishments is only available to people who can produce identification documents.
Gambling Games in Bulgaria
Casino Technology is a well-known Bulgarian supplier of gaming software products for both offline and online casinos. This developer was previously known as Megajack. The company was founded back in 1999. The company's corporate headquarters are located in Sofia. Casino Technology has its subsidiaries in more than 15 different countries worldwide. They have more than 1,500 employees. Casino Technology has been nominated for many awards at ceremonies such as the International Gaming Awards, Global Gaming Awards, BEGE and Peru Gaming Show.
Today the developer's portfolio has more than 50 different video slots. The games developed by this company are distinguished by their simple rules, convenient usability and variety of themes. Each slot normally has 5 reels and some bonus rounds. The most popular products of the supplier are Cat Queen, Power of Ankh, 40 Shining Jewels, American Gigolo, Australian Magic, Bavarian Forest and Beetle Star. Most of the slots have trial versions, which provides an opportunity to check out the games for free.
In 1989 Bulgaria joined the market economy, which affected the gambling industry. On the one hand, the industry started developing, yet on the other hand, a host of semi-legal facilities with poor service sprang up throughout the country and provided services of questionable quality. This made the government and business representatives start working on the development of standards for the regulation of the gambling industry. As a result, from 1993 till 1999 the decree was in force that regulated the operations of land-based casinos, bingo games and lotteries. And in 1999 the Law on Regulating the Gambling Business was passed. The Gambling Act of 1999 is still in force with various amendments to this day.
A License for online gambling is also issued by the State Commission on Gambling (SCG). According to Bulgarian legislation, the operator must be located in the territory of the state. Websites that operate in the country without this permit will be blocked. The full list of websites licensed by Bulgaria's State Commission on Gambling can be found on its official website. Bulgarian clients of online casinos prefer sports betting, slots, especially the ones by Casino Technology, poker and table games. Basic points of the law:
- The Government's key objective is to deny any criminal or criminal organisations access to the gambling industry. The list of people who will be denied the appropriate licenses includes convicts, violators of tax legislation, citizens who filed for bankruptcy and organisers of underground gambling.
- Prospective casino owners in Bulgaria must have a minimum capital of 500,000 BGN / 286,000 USD.
- Foreigners that would like to open a gaming establishment in the country must run a four-star hotel. The alternative option for citizens of other countries is to invest 10 million USD into Bulgaria's economy and create 500 jobs. These requirements of foreign entrepreneurs are based on the goal to safeguard the Bulgarian gambling industry. This rule, however, does not apply to companies that are registered in the EU.
- The Bulgarian government state structures are also allowed to operate gambling businesses, and their proceeds must go towards the development of sports, healthcare, culture and social programs in the country.
- Gambling houses cannot be placed in government buildings.
- Advertising of gambling in media is not allowed.
- Bulgarian gambling law allows a special regulating body, which is State Commission on Gambling, to be set up. The commission is part of the Ministry of Finance. Accordingly, only holders of special licenses issued by the Commission have the right to run gambling operations. Membership in the organisation is granted exclusively to citizens of Bulgaria who have a higher level of education, preferably a law degree, as well as work experience in the legal field of at least 5 years. Another requirement of members of the Commission is a lack of interest in the gambling area.
The State Commission on Gambling can issue, revoke or suspend the gambling license, monitor the operations of gambling businesses, conduct appropriate inspections and ensure that taxes from the gambling industry end up in the State Treasury. The reviewing of documents is not included in the fee for the license issued by Bulgaria's State Commission on Gambling. Online casinos that do not have the permit from this organisation will be blocked and blacklisted. Requirements for offline gambling halls:
- Pursuant to the state legislation, a gambling hall must contain at least 20 gaming machines and be located in cities with a population of over 50,000. If the facility is located in a city with a fewer people, there has to be at least 10 slot machines.
- The minimum of two square meters must be allotted for each slot machine.
- A casino must have at least five gaming tables. There has to be at least two roulette tables. The country's authorities believe that this is the way they will manage to safeguard the gambling market from small-time gambling facilities, whose operations will be hard to regulate.
- The average payback percentage of slot machines must be at least 80 percent. The games must undergo a regular quality check by the State Commission on Gambling.
- Gambling houses must be located at a distance of over 300 meters away from schools or other educational institutions.
- Owners of gambling houses and online casinos are not allowed to produce or supply gaming content.
- Gaming houses are not allowed to provide any credits to the visitors.
- Minors, intoxicated people, people in uniforms (unless on their service duties) or people without identification documents are strictly forbidden from entry into casinos. Players are also prohibited from bringing any weapons into casinos.
- Representatives of gambling business, casino employees or their family members are not allowed to gamble.
- Winnings to the visitors will be paid in BGN. The only exception is the gambling houses that have been granted permission to use foreign currency.
Development of Gambling Market in Bulgaria
Despite the rigidity of the regulations listed above, they will still contribute to the development of the gambling industry in Bulgaria while preventing the creation of small illegal gambling facilities at the same time. To obtain a license, an application must be submitted to the State Commission on Gambling, along with a set of documents including ones that confirm the company's registration, a certificate to show a clear criminal record, a financial statement, the permission to open a gaming facility from all owners of the premises, which has been notarized, and documents that show the origin of the gaming equipment and testify to its quality. The application for a primary license will be reviewed for 60 days. The license will remain valid for 5 years from the moment it is issued.
Gambling Taxes in Bulgaria
Since 2012, gambling tax in the country was 7%. But in 2013 the tax was increased to 15%. It was initiated by the Minister of Finance at the time Simeon Djankov. This initiative was endorsed by Parliament. After this, taxes on gambling in 2014 increased by 120 BGN. At the same time the Government decided to inspect gambling websites. Only the holders of the license issued by the State Commission on Gambling are allowed to conduct both land-based and online gambling operations. According to the country's legislation:
- Owners of gambling businesses must have their software inspected for quality on a regular basis. The inspection is conducted by the State Commission on Gambling.
- No advertising of gambling is allowed.
- Unlicensed websites will be blacklisted.
- Tax on proceeds from gambling business is 15 %.
Despite the rigidity of the provisions in the Gambling Law, the country's gambling industry is still on the rise. Land-based casinos are visited by the locals as well as tourists. Products by the local supplier of software products, Casino Technology, are the ones that are in most demand among the visitors of online portals.