Bulgaria’s Gambling Commission has expanded the blacklist of online operators banned from providing services to Bulgarian customers, adding 28 more websites to the list on June 24. Earlier this month, the commission banned 22 other websites.
Under amendments to the country’s Gambling Act, passed last year, all companies that offer any games of chance in Bulgaria must hold a Bulgarian gambling licence and pay tax – in Bulgaria, gambling operators are taxed 15 per cent on their turnover.
The initial blacklist focused on online bookmakers – Bet365, Sportingbet, Ladbrokes, 888, Bet-at-Home, BetFred and BetFair to name a few. Following a court order, Bulgarian internet service providers have already blocked access to the websites.
The additions include another big-name bookmaker, William Hill, and a number of online poker websites – pokerstars.com (and its Bulgarian-language version pokerstars.bg), partypoker.com and fulltiltpoker.com.
Furthermore, the new list includes mirror websites run by gambling operators who have had other websites blocked in the initial list, such as allsport365.com (run by bet365 Group) and bg.sportingbeteurope.com.
Gambling Commission chairperson Ivan Enicherov said in an interview with a local newspaper that the first blacklist was drafted following complaints that some websites cheated their customers. While the complaints were only directed at “two-three sites”, the list was significantly longer because the commission could not tell “whether they all have the option to cheat Bulgarian consumers, given that we cannot carry out partner checks,” he was quoted as saying.
According to Enicherov, it is difficult to estimate the annual turnover of the online gambling industry in Bulgaria, but it was thought to be about 700 million leva (about 358 million euro).
Industry sources quoted in Bulgarian media said that online gambling operators did not object to taxation in principle, but the high tax rate; according to those same reports, online operators pay out about 90 per cent of their turnover as winnings.
Enicherov said that, in the past, Bulgarian lawmakers always leaned on imposing higher tax rates on gambling and that he did not intend to request a study to evaluate the impact of lower rates on online operations.
“Offline gambling currently contributes 150 million leva from taxes, fees and fines. My stance is that there should be not be two taxes on the same activity only because it is offered online or in physical locations,” he said.
(Photo: Kevin van der Draai/sxc.hu)