Published: January 19, 2020

Bulgarian Cabinet backs gambling bill banning private lottery games

Bulgaria’s Cabinet was supporting the bill of amendments to the country’s Gambling Act that would ban lottery games organised by private operators, tabled by MPs from the junior partner in the government coalition, Finance Minister Vladislav Goranov said on January 17.

Speaking to reporters in Parliament, Goranov said that Bulgaria would be imposing a state monopoly, rather than nationalise existing companies.

One of the largest private lottery operators in Bulgaria, National Lottery, said in a statement on its site that “the nationalisation of private business is an unacceptable precedent that will lead to irreversible consequences for the state, legislative and executive branches.”

Goranov said that the change would bring increased revenue, as well as support Bulgarian sport. State lottery operator Bulgarian Sport Totalisator is required by law to pay out a significant part of its revenue to the Sports Ministry, which then allocates the money to individual sport federations.

“The market should not be growing for the sake of it, because in gambling, one’s spending is another’s revenue. We witness how with their last money, especially at petrol stations and it is staggering, people re-fuel for 10 leva and spend 20 leva on gambling,” Goranov was quoted as saying by Bulgarian National Radio (BNR).

Goranov also said that he would, separately from the bill in Parliament, put forward a proposal to restructure the State Gambling Commission, after an analysis by the finance ministry showed that the gambling regulator “made contradictory decisions over the years, which shows that there are accumulated faults that must be fixed.”

The bill of amendments was tabled in Parliament a day earlier by Valeri Simeonov, one of the co-leaders of the ultra-nationalist United Patriots group, the junior partner in government.

Simeonov said on January 16 that he expected the largest opposition party, the socialists, to back his bill as well, given that socialist leader Kornelia Ninova had previously said the party would support legislation aimed at limiting gambling.

That earlier bill, tabled by Simeonov in 2018, only aimed to restrict the points-of-sale for lottery tickets, as well as limit gambling ads, but it was never put to a vote in the National Assembly.

In addition to repealing the private lottery operators’ licences within three months of the law going into effect, the bill envisions that the operators should pay out all outstanding winnings no later than June 2021, or December 2025 if they enter a deferred payment contract with the individual lottery winners.

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