On the way to a modern regulatory framework since 1993
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.
The initiative for the development of modern legislation in the sector first came from the local operators, government representatives and members of the first association that united operators and manufacturers from the gaming business – BTAMOGI. The new regulatory framework was a reflection of the understanding that the only way to protect the legitimate rights of all stakeholders – citizens, organizers, manufacturers and the state is to “integrate” this social need into a model that can be effectively controlled.
Gaming became officially recognized for the first time in a Decree in 1993, which legalized the activities of the casinos, gaming halls, Bingo halls, the state lottery and the toto. The slot machines were legalized, certain restrictions were introduced, and a maximum amount of the profit that could be paid off was set. Thus they turned into a popular amusement in gaming halls, coffee shops and bars.
In the years which followed, the gaming industry expanded considerably and it became necessary to introduce strict and detailed rules, as well as clear regulations.
The Gambling Law was adopted in the middle of 1999 and helped develop further the legal framework with respect to the work of casinos and gaming hall operators. It introduced a licensing system, set new fees, amended the definition and the requirements to gaming equipment, defined clearly the regulatory body and its structure, as well as the sanctioning procedures and measures. At the end of 1999 the Gambling Law was amended and new requirements were introduced with respect to the licensing of the manufacturers, the service centers and the distributors of gaming equipment. Since then till the present day the law has been amended several more times, reflecting the dynamic changes in the sector. It has a number of advantages in comparison with other leading European regulations and this is recognized not only in Bulgaria, but also abroad. The social care and the prevention activities towards persons under age is of special concern in the law. It banned the access of persons under age into gaming halls and casinos, introduced strict ID control of the visitors, set norms with respect to the distance of the gaming halls and casinos from schools and kinder-gardens, restricted the access of drunk people and people under the effect of drugs into these sites, etc.
Bulgaria is among the few jurisdictions in Europe which has enforced administrative sanctions. It can also conduct sudden inspections of the gaming sites by a way of exercising control over gambling. All measures suggested by the EU with respect to money laundering have been reflected in the legislation long time ago and have become mandatory for the gaming operators.