New online legislation has brought some significant changes to the Bulgarian market with the hope it will eventually create greater competition. Bulgaria can be found in south-eastern Europe, with a coastline on the Black Sea. After fighting alongside Germany in the Second World War, Bulgaria found itself a Soviet satellite state for over forty years. In 1989 as communism collapsed across the Eastern Bloc countries, Bulgaria took the first steps towards becoming a democracy. The first elections were held in December 1989, followed by the adoption of a democratic constitution in 1991. Bulgaria then joined the EU in 2005.
In this guide to online sports betting in Bulgaria you can first find an overview of how sports betting developed in the country. Following this the online market is looked along with the tax implications for sports bettors. Then the ease of which Bulgarians can use different sites is covered before finishing up with thoughts to the future of the industry within this country.
As sports betting was illegal under the communist government it was not until 1990 that Eurofootball, the first private bookmaker, launched their operations. The company was allowed to operate despite there being no formal licenses until 1993. This was joined by the state run lottery operator Sports Totalizator, started running pari-mutuel style betting games. Both companies have since grown massively and dominate the land based market.
While legal sports betting was now possible in Bulgaria it was only the Gambling Law of 1998 which put together a serious framework to tax the operators . Later laws in 2008 also meant that in theory companies could offer their services online. In practice when Sports Totalizator was the only operator licensed to do so, Eurofootball was permitted the small consolation of to being allowed to advertise their prices.
Bulgarian Government Don’t Like Outsiders
The monopoly that Sports Totalizator held on the internet market lasted until 2013, although up until 2012 many Bulgarians used the numerous international sites who accepted their bets. Companies offering bookies to Bulgarian customers were some of the biggest in Europe and argued that their EU licenses allowed them to do so under free market rules.
The government soon realized the international companies were taking away revenues and taxes and looked into ways to tighten the gambling laws. Meanwhile there was a realization that a fair system had to be developed in order to be approved by the European Commission . This led to new legislation coming into effect in 2012 which redesigned the licensing system and allowed Bulgaria to create a blacklist to block international sites without Bulgarian licenses. Even though this list covered same major names, with more added since, it has proved difficult to enforce and has only resulted in a few companies voluntarily refusing Bulgarian bettors.
Eurofootball was the first sports betting site to gain a license under the new laws in September 2013 with Sports Totalizator gaining theirs in January 2014. Despite having their worldwide sites blocked, major companies were slow to apply for licenses until the government approved a reduction of the taxes applied. As a result an increase in applications was seen and Betfair was awarded a license in February 2014 .
Tax on Winnings Proposed?
Bulgarians, like many other EU citizens are currently exempt from paying any taxes on gambling winnings. There have been proposals in 2013 for a 10% tax to be enforced, although it unclear if this even got out of the discussion stage and should not affect anything at least in the near future.
It Can Be Difficult for Residents to Place Bets Online
Although the sites with Bulgarian licenses are set up to fully cater for domestic players. Despite the blacklist there are many operators still providing markets for Bulgarians to bet on, although several refuse to accept Bulgarian wagers in order to look responsible elsewhere in the world and protect the chance of obtaining future licenses.
Of those international companies that remain very few of them provide a Bulgarian translation or offer wagers in Levs. Instead you will have to choose an alternative language you are familiar with or rely on your browsers translations, and have your balance held in Euros.
With the blacklists in place there may be issues processing transactions. While credit cards like Visa or MasterCard will process transactions to domestic sites, they may not do so for international ones. Instead a better option is to use an e-wallet like NETeller or Skrill. These act like a third party online wallet which you can deposit into and it will then allow you to make deposits and withdrawals from different sites without any hassle.
How Does the Future Look for Online Sports Betting in Bulgaria?
Now that there is a greater interest by the larger companies it is hoped that more will gain licenses in Bulgaria. Many companies still claim the blacklist is illegal and has been enforced unfairly so you would imagine a European ruling will be made on this at some point in the future. Meanwhile the blacklists, like many ISP blocks, have not been effective.
It does take a long time for different things to changes to happen so it appears for now there will be a steady flow of newly regulated sites operating legally under Bulgarian law while a grey or black market of international sites continue to offer bets in the background.