The end of gambling ads in the media
The amendment package will influence also some other related sectors and businesses

The Act on Amendments and Supplements to the Gambling Act (“AASGA”) has been promulgated on 14.05.2024 in issue 42 of the State Gazette. The package of amendments covers a number of measures, new obligations and prohibitions for gambling organisers aimed at intensively restricting gambling advertising.



The most significant amendment is related to the general ban on gambling advertising in radio and television programmes, printed pieces (e.g. newspapers) and electronic media, including websites, as well as in public places. However, advertisements are allowed by way of exception in a few exhaustively provided hypotheses, namely: (1) on the facades of gambling site, subject to certain restrictions as regards the area occupied by the advertisement (the permitted advertising area space is limited to 20 % of the facade, but not more than 50 sq.m.), (2) on sports equipment, sports facilities, sports halls, stadiums and swimming pools, on materials or products of sports federations, clubs, associations and organizations, and (3) on outdoor constructed billboard-type facilities if located at a distance of not less than 300 meters from nurseries, kindergartens, schools, higher education institutions and other facilities where social services are provided to children and youth.



The content of the advertisement must include the text: “Gambling carries a risk of developing addiction” in an area of at least 10 % of the total advertising space, unless it is an advertisement on sports equipment to which this requirement is not applicable. It is permissible for the advertisement to contain the name, type and variety of the gambling games, the registered trademark of the organiser, the draws and the announcement of the winnings therein. However, the inclusion of figures (amounts) in the advertisement is prohibited.



Supervisory powers over the advertising content of gambling in the media are assigned to the Electronic Media Council. If it establishes any violations, it must refer the matter to the National Revenue Agency for initiation of administrative-penal proceedings.



A substantial change is also envisaged with regard to the organisation of gambling with gaming machines and casino gaming in small towns. Such games may be conducted only within the urbanised areas of settlements with more than 10 000 inhabitants. By exception, in national resorts and small settlements located within 30 kilometres of road, rail and river border crossing points of the Republic of Bulgaria, the listed gambling games may be still organised irrespectively of the above restriction.



Furthermore, gambling organisers are required to make annual contributions for socially responsible behaviour of a higher amount for each licence issued, with the contribution amount depending on the type of licence (whether for online betting, casino gaming or another type of gambling game). The revenue from these annual contributions is allocated evenly between the Ministry of Youth and Sports and the Ministry of Health.



Gambling organisers will be required as well to implement measures for limiting a behaviour that puts the health and financial well-being of consumers at risk. Minimum measures will be set out in a subordinate regulatory act, including - limiting the stay on online betting websites, implementing a mechanism to limit the possible financial loss of a user for a certain period, limiting the amount of bets for certain types of gambling games and in certain time ranges.



Another significant obligation with practical benefit is provided for in relation to the payment of winnings from gaming machines and/or in casino. Gambling organisers shall be obliged to pay out all winnings up to 10,000 BGN (approx. EUR 5,000) at the moment of being provided with the certification token (tokens, coupons) for the winning. Any winnings above this amount shall be paid by bank transfer within the day following the day when the win occurred. The aim is to prevent the need for a second visit by the consumer to the gaming room for receiving the amount won. 



The serious restrictions imposed on the gambling business presumably pursue socially important objectives, but they also have a tangible impact on the activities of both gambling organisers and radio stations and televisions, where significant proportion of the total advertising time has been taken up by gambling advertising in recent years. In view of the above, the amendments will certainly have a serious impact on various segments of the market in the country and will affect businesses directly or indirectly. The vast majority of the changes are already in place. The provisions on the contributions for socially responsible behaviour shall come into force four months after the promulgation of the Law, while those on limiting risky behaviour in online betting, as well as on preventing persons in risk groups from gambling, come into force on 1 January 2025.