In April 2024, the Bulgarian Parliament adopted amendments to the Gambling Law[1] which entered into force on 18 May 2024. The law was adopted in a fast-track legislative procedure with an overwhelming majority of MPs supporting new and far-reaching restrictions on the advertising of gambling games. 

The amended Gambling Law prohibits advertising gambling games on radio and TV, as well as in other electronic media, including websites. Advertising in printed publications and public places, including facades of buildings. 

There are several strictly formulated exceptions from the advertising ban:

  • Out-of-home advertisements can be displayed only on freestanding billboards located more than 300 m from educational institutions, including schools, universities, kindergartens, children's playgrounds, dormitories for pupils or students, as well as institutions that supply social services to children and youngsters. In all cases, gambling ads should be limited to 5% of the entire advertising area (network) managed by the respective OOH operator.
  • A licensed gambling operator may place ads on the facade of the premises where it organises gambling games, but only advertising games which take place in the respective premises. The gambling ad may cover no more than 20% of the entire area of the facade and in any case, it should not cover more than 50 m².
  • The Gambling Law does not prohibit advertisement on sports gear, sports halls, stadiums, and swimming pools, products and materials operated by or related to sports federations, sports clubs, sports associations, or organizations, on condition that the equipment/products/materials are not designated for persons under 18. 

An advertisement that benefits from the exceptions should only contain the name and/or type of the gambling game; the registered trademark of the organiser and information about results. On all ads, except ads on sports gear, no less than 10% of the entire area should be dedicated to the warning: “Gambling carries a risk of addiction”. The Gambling Law explicitly prohibits ads from containing figures.

Sponsorship on behalf of organisers of gambling games is still allowed, but only concerning events that support sports, culture, healthcare, education, social services, and activities related to the prevention and treatment of gambling addiction. In all cases, the restrictions outlined above should be observed.

To ensure more effective enforcement of the newly imposed prohibitions, the Gambling Law prescribes that any entity that publishes, broadcasts, or disseminates in any manner gambling ads, including in the course of an event, is obliged before entering into an agreement with an organiser of gambling games, to verify whether the latter holds a valid license under the Gambling Law.

The Gambling Law now provides for increased administrative fines for certain violations. An organiser of gambling games that advertises them violating the statutory rules may be sanctioned with a fine in the range of BGN 30,000 (approx. EUR 15,000) to BGN 50,000 (approx. EUR 25,000). The fines that may be imposed on entities that publish, broadcast, or disseminate ads in violation of the Gambling Law remain unchanged – from BGN 10,000 (approx. EUR 5,000) to BGN 30,000 (approx. EUR 15,000).

The amended Gambling Law introduced for the first time the possibility for enforcement of advertising prohibitions against online intermediaries. The National Revenue Agency or the Ministry of Interior may issue takedown orders as referred to in Article 9 of the Digital Services Act. However, the Gambling Law does not detail the applicable procedures, safeguards, and sanctions for non-compliance.

The goal of the amendments to the Gambling Law is to limit the promotion of gambling games. Indeed, the objectives of the draft bill explained that advertising has paramount importance in enabling consumers to make an informed choice. Advertising allows consumers to identify licensed gambling operators and avoid illegal gambling. However, in all cases, gambling advertisements should be purposeful which could be achieved by the introduction of strict rules for all actors. In MPs' view, the broad access of people of all ages and social backgrounds to gambling ads has resulted in a significant increase in the number of people gambling. Thus, it is expected that in the long term, the new restrictions will decrease the popularity of gambling. 

In the meantime, safer environment and educated choice is what the legislator strives to achieve. In MPs’ view, gambling ads should inform consumers that they should always remain in control of their behaviour and seek help if needed.