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Bulgaria’s Proposed Gambling Ad Ban Under Protest

22 February 2011 by admin

bulgaria-1When Bulgaria’s government unveiled its draft bill for online gambling regulation, the industry wasn’t pleased. The government decided to take protectionism to an absurd level, protecting its monopolies in ways that the European Union is sure to reject. Among the most ridiculous regulations is one that requires online gambling operators to have physical offices in each of the country’s 28 provinces in order to obtain a license. The Gambling Act also did not cover any sort of protection for problem gamblers or age verification to protect against underage gambling. Both are required by the European Union.

The requirement that operators have a physical presence in each province is sure to be shot down by the EU and soon after the draft law was introduced, protestors petitioned the EU about that. The regulation that is currently drawing the most criticism, though, regards advertising.

Advertising is one of the most important tools for a business. It helps it grow, become a known brand, and distinguish itself from the competition. The proposed gambling legislation, however, would ban all gambling advertising in Bulgaria. That includes for licensed land-based and online casinos.

As expected, representatives from online and brick and mortar casinos strongly oppose the advertising ban. A recent statement from those groups called for the Bulgarian government to remove all restrictions on gambling advertising from the bill.

In discussions organized by Standart, a Bulgarian newspaper, opponents of the advertising ban offered a sort of compromise. They suggested that gambling companies be allowed to advertise, but with warnings, like you normally see with cigarette or alcohol ads. The warnings, in print and broadcast media, would state that gambling can be dangerous and lead to addiction. Another proposal is that no one under the age of 25 should be used to advertise for gambling companies, in order to avoid appearing to market to minors.

The casino operators surely aren’t thrilled about the idea of their ads coming with warning labels, but the proposals heard during the discussions certainly seem reasonable. As Betfair learned with their banned ad featuring then-20-year-old Annette Obrestad, using someone too young can send the wrong message. As for the warnings, though gambling operators don’t like the stigma, erring on the side of caution is a good idea, especially if such a concession is the only way to be allowed to advertise at all. Expect this battle to take place for some time and eventually end with an EU ruling on Bulgaria’s proposed law.

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