The Bulgarian National Revenue Agency (NRA) has been given responsibility for the regulation of gambling in the country, following a decision by lawmakers to abolish the country’s dedicated betting industry body, the State Commission on Gambling (SCG).
The SCG has been closed since August 8, while the contracts of the Commission’s chairman and other leading members have been terminated. Regulatory power to oversee the market have been transferred to the NRA executive director, Galya Dimitrova, who has the freedom to nominate a deputy who will have more direct control over Bulgarian gambling.
As part of the change, all disciplinary proceedings that had been launched by the SCG will now be completed under the NRA, while all licence applications and renewals are to be processed within six months of the NRA taking charge of regulation. It has also been confirmed that all licences awarded by the SCG will continue to be valid, while ongoing fees and industry data will go to the NRA.
Lawmakers passed a bill abolishing the SCG back in July, after a period in which the regulator was hit by a series of scandals, leading to doubts over its ability to oversee the sector.
The chair of the SCG dogged by scandal, leading to questions over its ability to effectively oversee the country’s gambling market. The SCG chair, Alexander Georgiev, resigned in February following his involvement in an investigation into gambling mogul Vasil Bozhkov. Bozhkov’s Eurofootball business, which is the oldest sports betting firm in Bulgaria, had its operating licence suspended in March, and in the same month, Bozhkov-owned firm National Lottery AD, handed back its operating licence. Sportsbook technology firm Kambi also suspended its dealings with the business.
The Bill to abolish the SCG was filed by a member of the centre-right GERB party, and was another step in the ongoing efforts to reshape the country’s gambling sector. Back in January, a bill filed by the nationalist National Front for Salvation effectively handed the state owned Sports Totaliser a monopoly on all lottery products. The same party have also proposed the closure of nearly all gambling halls in the country, and a limit on the number of casino resorts allowed in Bulgaria. The reforms have been attacked by the Bulgarian gambling sector, which has estimated that up to 75% of gambling venues in the country could close, with 30,000 jobs lost.