The past year brought to the gaming industry in Bulgaria new regulations, new rules, new challenges, new technologies, new stakeholders. It is expected to bring also new tax rates. Whether this will tip the balance for the sector and in what direction is still unclear. Contradictory remained the attitude in the industry, driven by the developments, which led to closure of facilities, dismissal of employees and cutting down the activities of a large part of the gambling organizers. This was due to several major trends..
The new Bulgarian gaming law – opening avenues or taking to dead-end?
The technological evolution in the internet space has provoked a variety of changes in the regulatory and legislative processes for the gaming industry worldwide. Liberalization of gaming, both in the land based and internet space have become a trend in the recent years, especially in the search of the governments for new sources of revenues for their budgets. Those trends challenged the gaming industry in Bulgaria as well and provoked activities of the government toward modernization of the existing regulation, reflecting the new technological trends for remote communication, and becoming a focal point of the discussions for the necessity of updating the regulation in the country. This environment of increased global competition both in land based and internet gaming space, coupled with the continuing economic stagnation, the higher gaming tax burden imposed in 2010 and the introduction of the smoking ban in the casinos in 2011, was the norm for the challenging existence of the gaming business during this year.
Last year was marked by the sign of a dynamic process created by the intentions aiming amendments of the Gambling Law and the increase of taxes in the gaming sector voted at the end of 2009. In July 2010 the State Commission on Gambling announced for a public comments and discussions a new Gambling Law Draft. The proposed new draft aimed to update the gambling regulations and to fill up gaps in the current law in respect of the remote gaming, including SMS games and online gambling. There are given clear definitions, of basic terms, such as random numbers generator, wide area jackpot, manufacturer, communication equipment etc., that are missing at the moment and without them it would be not possible the unambiguous interpretation of the technical aspects contents, specified in the draft. Many comments and suggestions regarding the texts were proposed during the public discussions of the Law. BTAMOGI being an association consolidating the interests of a great part of the employed in the industry, made an official proposal to the State Commission on Gambling.
Despite the major challenges brought by the global economic recession, the gaming industry generated significant contribution to the national budget in 2008. The gaming taxes for 2008 rose to 112 Million BGN, which is about a 30% increase from 2007. The gaming fees paid to the State Commission on Gambling during the last year are 5 Million BGN. Overall, the gaming industry employed more than 85 000 people in various cities of the country, especially on the borderline with Romania, Greece, and Turkey, thus creating employment in some rural and poorly developed areas. Approximately 70% of the employed in the sector received additional training and professional qualification.
The gaming and entertainment business have their own history and follow a natural course of development in line with the trends in society. During the past decade the gaming industry in Bulgaria went through a stage of intensive development – from the absence of any regulation towards a stable regulatory framework. Right after the fall of the Communist regime in 1989 gaming could be practiced only in a few hotels, mostly visited by foreigners. That is why state regulation of any kind was missing.