Bulgaria’s Parliament decided to postpone the vote on the first reading of the Gambling Act amendments, bring the country’s legislation closer to international practices and put an end to the blacklisting of online gambling operators, for next week.
Following a two-hour debate in Parliament, the motion to postpone the vote passed with 91 MPs in favour and 85 opposed.
During the debate, the bill was criticised by opposition party GERB as serving the gambling lobby. GERB also said that the requirement to have gambling operators declare their revenues with the Gambling Commission, rather than the National Revenue Agency (NRA), would make it easier for operators to declare lower revenues because the commission does not have the institutional capacity to check the revenue declarations, but the NRA does.
The bill was tabled earlier this month by 11 MPs from the two parties in Bulgaria’s ruling parliamentary axis – the socialists and the predominantly-ethnic Turk Movement for Rights and Freedoms – which has enough seats in Parliament to ensure that the amendments are passed.
According to one socialist MP, quoted by news website Dnevnik.bg, the bill had not been discussed by the party’s parliamentary group prior to the debate, which meant that there was no “political decision whether to support or reject” the bill.
Parliament’s decision comes a day after the Cabinet amended gambling license regulations, creating the opportunity for gambling operators to apply for a licence online, which would make it easier for operators based outside Bulgaria to apply and receive a license.
The key provision of the amendment bill is changing the way gambling is taxed – replacing the 15 per cent tax on gambling revenues with a one-off licensing fee of 100 000 leva (about 50 000 euro) and a 20 per cent tax on the “difference between the bets made and the winnings paid out”.
Online gambling operators have decried, in the past, Bulgaria’s taxation of gambling revenues, saying that it made operations in Bulgaria unprofitable. This has been the main reason for the reluctance of foreign gambling operators to register in Bulgaria, reports in Bulgarian media said.
That, in turn, has prompted Bulgaria’s Gambling Commission to blacklist dozens of gambling websites, requesting by court order that Bulgarian internet service providers cut access to such websites.
(Photo: Kevin van der Draai/sxc.hu)