Bulgaria has a diverse gambling environment with online gambling becoming more and more popular in recent years. Land-based and online casinos are legal in Bulgaria and there is plenty of choices, especially for brick and mortar casinos and gambling halls. Bulgarians love to gamble openly without many restrictions from their government. The country attracts punters from abroad especially from countries where gambling is still illegal, including Turkey and Israel.
Online gambling has been alive and popular in Bulgaria since 2002 when the first online casinos started popping up. Over the years the online gambling industry has continued to grow from strength to strength as more and more players have flocked towards it, due to the comfort and convenience it provides.
The biggest problem online gambling operators have faced throughout the years was expanding and getting into the markets of different countries. Bulgaria is a country that has had a relatively interesting take on online gambling due to some recent corruption scandals. While most forms of gambling were banned for a time, the online gambling market was liberalised, but only to an extent.
Bulgaria has in recent years been in the news quite a few times due to the changes of legislation on online gambling. In an attempt to fully understand their laws and regulations we’ll be taking a look at their history and laws regarding gambling and online gambling, as well as any and all new developments related to the online casino industry.
As is the case with most Eastern European countries that fell under Soviet Rule before 1993, gambling was considered illegal in Bulgaria. Things changed in 1993 with the Government Decree that legalised all forms of gambling. Unfortunately, in the first years after that time, the regulations and oversight were poorly carried out, and the government was pushed to a point where they had to do something to regain control of the fast-growing gambling industry.
In 1998 they introduced The Gaming Law which was enacted to regain control over the industry, with legislation focused on regulating the industry. The law was created by Bulgaria’s State Commission for Gambling which was from this point on in charge of issuing licences to anyone wanting to operate within Bulgaria.
While online gambling has been around since 2002, it was only legalised in 2008 in Bulgaria. Again, the government took the time to legalise online gambling but did not enact adequate legislation to regulate the market successfully.
It was only in 2012 when the State Commission on Gambling passed the Gambling Act, where they properly covered all legislation regarding online gambling. The Act was put in place to control, regulate and maintain the market. With the Act, they applied a 15% restrictive tax for all licensed casino operators and blacklisted all unlicensed operators. During this time the list of blocked casino sites amounted to 350 gambling companies. This list is still available and regularly updated on the State Commission on Gambling website www.dkh.minfin.bg/en/.
Later, the Bulgarian government gave in to protests against high tax tariffs and discontent over blacklisting, and in 2013 introduced the Gambling Reform Bill. This Bill led to more relaxed tax requirements, which now included a one-time licensing fee, as well as a 20% tax on the gross profits of all licensed companies.
Over the past few years, there have been many disputes regarding some of the regulations within the country, so much so that the Council of Ministers decided to reduce the administrative burden which gambling operators had to bear when applying for licences within Bulgaria. This was implemented in 2017. As a result, gambling operators were put under less financial stress and less stress in providing the required documentation. The procedures for offering services and in applying for licences were thus made a little easier.
At the beginning of 2020, Bulgaria has taken on reforming its gambling laws again, as a result of a big corruption scandal with the State Commission on Gambling. Private lottery companies were banned due to millions lost in unpaid taxes. Since then, new legislation has been considered ranging from changing the gambling authority body that controls the industry to allowing land-based casinos only in 5-star hotel resorts and designated areas.
It is clear that Bulgaria is one of the countries heavily focused on maintaining law and order. Since they started their blacklist in 2013, the number of blacklisted companies has grown to a massive 732 illegal casino operators. While online gambling is 100% legal in the country, operators are required to go through the legal procedure of getting licensed and approved by the government before they are allowed to approach Bulgarian gamblers.
Any company that breaks the rules or attempts to reach players in Bulgaria without the required documentation, will be added to the blacklist and their site will be blocked in the country.
It is always fun to legally have the opportunity to play at the top online casinos without the fear of being caught or having to pay a price to do so. But the question always remains on whether or not you as a player are required to declare your winnings or pay tax on them.
For Bulgarian citizens, there is good news. The government does not tax gambling winnings or require players to declare them. Thus, you are free to take home your entire amount of winnings and spend it on whatever your heart desires.
For online casino operators, things aren’t so simple. Over the years there has been a lot of debate on the heavy taxation imposed on casino operators, and while things have relaxed a little bit, these operators are still required to pay 20% taxes on their gross annual revenue.
The good news is that players have been legally allowed to participate in the act of online gambling since 2008. Over the years the government has done its best to get the proper laws and legislation in place to fully regulate and control the market.
Over the period in which it has been legal to gamble online in Bulgaria, the State Commission for Gambling has awarded over 240 online gambling licenses to 11 operators. These licensed operators are allowed to provide players within the country with a wide variety of games, including slot games, table games, live casino variants, and sports betting options.
The only thing you need to remember as a player within Bulgaria is to choose legal online casinos and make sure they are licensed legally by the SCG. This will only help you as a player not to get stuck along the way or run into trouble if the casino site is blacklisted, in which case your account may be frozen.
Our recommended and approved online casinos are licensed to operate within Bulgaria. These online casino sites have a wide gaming variety on offer, and also provide superb customer support and amazing bonuses to help you play longer with less.
While online gambling regulations in Bulgaria are getting into the right direction it is clear that the government should do much more in order to fully control the changing industry. In an attempt to save more to the national budget the government is still overlooking important aspects of the industry that are related to Responsible Gambling.
The State Commission for Gambling did not provide enough rules when it comes to playing responsibly, thus casinos licensed in Bulgaria are not required to follow compliance rules on deposit limits, self exclusions, session limits, etc.
It’s a fact that online gambling is growing within the country and we might see the next reforms targeting responsible gambling, anti-money laundering and taxation.
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