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Bulgarian Parliament Passes Legislation to Restrict Gambling Advertisements

The Bulgarian parliament has unanimously approved legislation restricting gambling advertisements across various media platforms, marking a significant shift in regulatory measures within the country. While advocacy groups concerned about societal impacts support this comprehensive ban, industry stakeholders, citing concerns over economic repercussions and freedom of expression, have drawn opposition.
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Christian McDeen | Caesar of Lands of Betting and Live Casino

Updated: May 1, 2024

Bulgarian Parliament Passes Legislation to Restrict Gambling Advertisements

The Bulgarian parliament has unanimously ratified legislation to curb the proliferation of gambling advertisements across various media channels. The bill, endorsed on April 30, represents a departure from the nation's current regulation of gambling promotions.

Advertising BanThe newly sanctioned law, slated to take effect upon its official publication, heralds a comprehensive ban on gambling advertisements across traditional mediums such as television, radio, newspapers, and online platforms. However, certain exemptions carve out space for promotional activities on billboards, social media platforms, and within sports venues devoid of underage audiences. Notably, billboards situated within a 300-meter radius of educational institutions will be mandated to display prominent warnings covering at least 10 percent of the advertisement space, cautioning against the risks associated with gambling addiction.

The legislation, spearheaded by Temenuzhka Petkova of the center-right GERB party, in collaboration with the UDF coalition and Yordan Tsonev of the ethnic Turkish MRF party, navigated a swift trajectory through the legislative process. Swiftly endorsed by the Budget Committee and ratified following its inaugural reading in parliament, the bill represents a concerted effort to address longstanding concerns surrounding the societal impact of gambling advertising practices.

bannedCritics argue that the existing regulatory framework harbors loopholes susceptible to exploitation by gambling entities. While current laws prohibit including winnings and winners' identities in advertisements, loopholes persist, permitting the endorsement of gambling by public figures alongside other promotional messages.

A chorus of advocacy groups spanning child welfare organizations, psychological experts, and concerned citizens has long championed stricter regulations to shield vulnerable demographics from the pernicious effects of gambling advertisements. In contrast, industry stakeholders, including major broadcasters, media conglomerates, and the Association of Broadcasters (ABBRO), have vehemently opposed the blanket ban, citing concerns over its potential encroachment on freedom of expression and its adverse economic ramifications.

Forecasts of impending revenue losses loom large, with broadcasters and gambling operators expressing apprehensions over the disruption of meticulously planned budgets intertwined with advertising revenue projections, notably tied to the upcoming Euro 2024 soccer championship. Furthermore, stakeholders caution that the prohibition risks exacerbating the proliferation of illicit gambling platforms, imperiling existing consumer protection protocols and depriving the government of vital tax revenues.

Bulgaria MapWhile extending conditional support to the legislation, former Prime Minister Nikolay Denkov underscores the profound impact on media sustainability, positing that a wholesale ban jeopardizes the financial viability of Bulgarian media outlets. Nonetheless, voices within the political arena advocate for amendments, including provisions targeting beneficiaries of social assistance and individuals facing foreclosure.

Echoing industry sentiments, the Confederation of Employers and Industrialists in Bulgaria (CEIBG) contends that the ban carries far-reaching repercussions, predicting substantial job losses, dwindling tourism receipts, and deleterious effects on the state coffers. Concerns loom over its potential to deter foreign investments and catalyze capital flight, casting a shadow over Bulgaria's economic landscape.

As the legislation heralds a paradigm shift in gambling advertising regulations within Bulgaria, its ramifications extend beyond the confines of the industry, prompting a nuanced dialogue surrounding the delicate equilibrium between consumer protection imperatives, economic considerations, and the preservation of freedom of expression.

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