The battle for European Union gaming law liberalization is turning to the Balkans as Bulgaria approves a new set of regulations that include IP blocking measures.
Under the new measures, internet service providers (ISPs) would be obligated to block unlicensed gaming sites. Additionally, a black list of blocked sites that ISPs can reference will be kept and maintained by the Bulgarian government.
New Online Gaming Regulations
Online gambling is the focus of a whole host of new laws approved by the Bulgarians legislature last week. Thanks to lax, and nearly non-existent regulatory measures, in the past unlicensed gaming sites are rampant in Bulgaria, siphoning off much needed tax revenue from the government.
Under the new regulations, online gaming sites will also be taxed 17 percent of gross profits. Gaming licenses will be limited to companies that have five years or more experience in the country or a land based operation there.
It’s been reported that the new crackdown, and accompanying licensing regulations, could generate as much as $100 million Leva ($67 million USD) for the Bulgarian government. Currently the Bulgarian operate Sports Totalizator, a sports betting and lottery site. Under Bulgarian law, half of the money generated from gaming taxes goes to youth sports programs.
Free Speech Issue
Much of the Internet chatter surrounding the new blocking rules in Bulgaria centered more around civil rights than gaming. Citizens of Bulgaria lived under Communist rule from 1946 to 1990.
Many critics believe that this would be the first step in stifling free speech and have asked the country’s new president, Rosen Plevneliev, to veto the measures.
Gambling has been legal in Bulgaria since 1993, but only seriously regulated since 1998. Gaming machines are a common sight at all types of businesses in the country from restaurants to gas stations.
Online gaming has been legal, and taxed at around 10 percent, since 2008. An effort in 2009 to further raise gaming taxes was scrapped after site operators complained that new taxes would put them out of business while propping up illegal sites.
Do you have any sites serving the Bulgarian market? Let us know how the new laws are impacting your business on our Online Gambling Laws and Regulations Forum.