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The Bulgarian National Assembly has voted to approve a wide-ranging gambling advertising ban today (26 April).

The amendments to the country’s Gambling Act would ban most forms of gambling advertising nationwide.

This includes promotions on television, in print and online media, on the radio and on the exterior of buildings.

If approved, advertising would only be permitted on billboards within 100m of a casino, a sports facility, or gaming hall.

Deputies in the assembly voted to approve it on the first reading, with 186 of 240 legislators voting in favour of the legislation.

The measure was criticised by the finance minister, who warned of effects on channelisation.

Finance minister Lyudmila Petkova said: “The Ministry of Finance has carried out an analysis of the approach to gambling advertising in EU member states and beyond.

“What has been found is that a total ban on gambling advertising usually leads to an increase in illegal gambling. In fact, most countries have taken a balanced approach.”

Ad ban criticised as populist

Legislators have convened an extraordinary session for the bill’s second reading on 30 April, one day before the session breaks up for pre-election campaigning.

Some MPs criticised the proposed law as a populist set of measures aimed at winning votes in the upcoming June elections.

The bill was submitted to the National Assembly by deputies from the GERB and DPS opposition parties, Temenuzka Petkova and Yordan Tsonev.

ITN politician Grozdan Karadzhov criticised the law as not going far enough to penalise gambling operators, according to local media.

Instead, he called for restrictions on gaming promotions, increases in taxes and for slot machines to be linked the country’s gambling regulator, the NRA.

“Every pastry shop is connected to the NRA, but not a single machine of the gambling operators is connected to the NRA”, he said.

The law also includes measures aimed at combating the unlicensed market.

Under the new rules, sites that host illegal gambling would be required to pay a fine between BGN50,000 (€25,600) and BGN200,000.

Companies that facilitate payments involving unlicensed gambling would also be liable for the penalty.

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