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Bulgaria moves to ban private lotteries with new bill

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A new draft bill recently released by the Bulgarian government has shocked private lottery companies and could change the face of gambling in the country.

In an attempt to boost the amount of money received by taxes on gambling, the government is looking to ban private sector lottery companies.

It’s alleged that by not having control of lotteries in the country, Bulgaria has missed out on collecting fees and taxes worth 210 million leva since 2014 alone.

“We’re introducing stricter control on the most widespread gambling games - the lottery games”, said Valeri Simeonov, a nationalist lawmaker. “The main goal of the law is to limit this (gambling) pandemic, which is damaging the health, the assets and sometimes the lives of gamblers.”

Changes to Bulgaria’s gambling laws

The draft bill, approved by the parliament’s budget committee, seeks to ban all private lottery games within a matter of 3 months, leaving only the Bulgarian Sports Totalizator. The BST is a state-owned company and would be the sole provider of lottery games in the country.

It is estimated that Bulgarians spend an average of $510 million (or 1 billion BGN) on lottery tickets each year.

More than just another way to cash in on extra taxes, the state has said that they are aiming to cut down on corruption, underage gambling, and boost funding for sports with these changes.

A concern for the people of Bulgaria and their gambling habits means the new bill even forbids the sale of lottery tickets near schools.

Finance Minister Vladislav Goranov, commented on how Bulgarians spend their money on gambling, saying: “The market should not be growing for the sake of it, because in gambling, one’s spending is another’s revenue. We witness how with their last money, especially at petrol stations and it is staggering, people re-fuel for 10 leva and spend 20 leva on gambling.”

The uproar over new laws

Owners of private lottery companies are in an uproar about these changes saying that Bulgaria should be nationalise businesses instead of cutting them out entirely.

The finance minister has rejected this notion. “Bulgaria will be imposing a state monopoly rather than nationalising existing companies.”

Vasil Bozhkov, one of the richest men in Bulgaria and also the owner of a stake in the largest gambling company in the country had much to say about the new bill. He called the new possible law changes an attempt to steal his business.

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