Bulgaria’s Parliament votes to ban advertising of gambling in all forms of media

With the votes of 200 MPs from all parliamentary groups, Bulgaria’s National Assembly voted on April 30 to approve the second and final reading of amendments to the Gambling Act that ban advertising of gambling in any form in all types of media – television, radio, print and electronic media.

The only exception is the state’s Sports Totalizer games, which transfer funds for sports and culture.

Gambling advertising remains permitted on billboards located at a distance of no less than 300 metres from schools, kindergartens and universities.

It also remans allowed at gambling halls themselves, as well as on sports facilities and equipment, except for those for children. At least 10 per cent of the area of such advertisements must contain text saying that gambling leads to addiction.

Gambling halls and casinos may exist only in settlements with more than 10 000 inhabitants, through this rule does not apply to resorts and those located within 30km from border points.

The regulation will also limit online beting. Illegal gambling advertising content will be monitored by the Council for Electronic Media. It will forward its findings to the National Revenue Agency, which will impose sanctions.

The law enters into force three days after its promulgation, in respect of gambling advertising. For gambling halls in small settlements, the grace period is three years.

The amendments were tabled on April 24 by Temenuzhka Petkova of GERB-UDF and Yordan Tsonev of the Movement for Rights and Freedoms, and the first reading was approved by the House on April 25.

April 30 was a special sitting of the National Assembly, which is go into recess for the Orthodox Easter holidays and then the campaign period ahead of Bulgaria’s June 9 early parliamentary elections and scheduled European Parliament elections.

The surprise appearance of the amendments was met with objections from several media groups, which saw the amendments as a severe blow to revenue and as possible threat to media independence given this curtailment of revenue.

The Association of Bulgarian Radio and Television Broadcasters said that the ban amounted to a ban on the provision of media services, saying that revenue from gambling advertising was crucial for financial sustainability of the media and important for quality journalism.

Others to object included the Bulgarian Gaming Association, the Bulgarian Gambling Association and the Association of Organizers of Gambling Games and Activities in Bulgaria, which said that the amendments would cut revenue for the state budget, investments and employment in the sector and have a negative impact on Bulgarian sport, the media and society as a whole.

Other criticisms have included that the ban would stimulate the use of illegal gambling sites.

(Photo: parliament.bg)

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