Historical context of iGaming license in Bulgaria
Online gambling in Bulgaria is primarily regulated under the Bulgarian Gambling Act 2012 (GA) and its supplementary legislation, with online gambling being introduced into law in 2014.
The regulatory oversight for online gambling was transferred from the State Gambling Commission to the National Revenue Agency (NRA), marking the only significant change in what has otherwise been a stable regulation.
The term “online gambling” in Bulgarian law encompasses any games of chance where bets are placed via the internet or other electronic channels.
Licensing is permissible for various online games like betting, poker, and casino games. However, as of amendments in February 2021, online lotteries have become a state monopoly except for instant lotteries.
Despite Bulgaria’s EU membership since 2007, the nation enjoys autonomy in regulating gambling, as there are no EU laws specifically targeting gambling.
Prerequisites for a Bulgarian online gambling license
- Corporate Registration: EEA or Swiss-registered companies are eligible to apply.
- Capital Requirements: A minimum of BGN 1.5 million in paid-in share capital is required.
- Authorized Representative: Non-Bulgarian companies must designate a representative in Bulgaria.
- Compliance Record: Applicants must have no prior violations of the Gambling Act.
- Technical Infrastructure: The central computer systems, networks, and software must meet specific criteria, with systems based in the EU.
- Banking Facilities: A bank account in an EU bank operating in Bulgaria is essential for bets and prize payments.
- Connectivity: The systems must register and identify players and connect to the NRA’s servers for real-time data sharing.
- NRA Approval: Gaming software and updates must receive NRA authorization.
- Investments: Post-licensing, an investment of BGN 1 million (around €511,000) must be made within six months.
Special Requirements: These vary depending on the game type and may include specifications for the computer system, website, rules, etc.
Application process for online gambling license
The process necessitates a comprehensive set of documents, such as good standing certificates, criminal record checks, ultimate beneficial owner (UBO) information, website details, gaming equipment information, and more.
Application fees vary between approximately €5,000 to €20,000. The review by the NRA takes 60 to 90 days, ending in approval or rejection, the latter being appealable. Licenses typically last for five years, with an additional post-approval fee.
Online gambling profits are subject to a corporate tax rate of 10% in Bulgaria. Cross-border tax implications might also occur.
The licensee must adhere to specific requirements for continued licensing, including:
- Ongoing Compliance Preparation: This involves compliance with domestic laws on advertising, consumer protection, data protection, Anti-Money Laundering (AML), etc.
- Commercial Relationships: Agreements with suppliers, such as Service Level Agreements (SLAs), may be required.
The overall process emphasizes legal compliance, technical readiness, financial standing, and continuous adherence to regulations. Potential applicants should engage in thorough preparation to navigate the complex Bulgarian online gambling licensing landscape.
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Pros and cons of online gambling license in Bulgaria
Obtaining an Online Gambling License in Bulgaria can present both opportunities and challenges. Here’s a breakdown of the advantages and disadvantages:
- Access to a Growing Market: Bulgaria’s online gambling market has seen significant growth, and having a license grants access to this lucrative market.
- Legal Compliance: Holding a license ensures that the operator is in full compliance with Bulgarian law, mitigating the risk of legal sanctions.
- Reputation Enhancement: Licensed operators are often perceived as more trustworthy and reliable by players, which can improve customer acquisition and retention.
- European Union Membership: Since Bulgaria is part of the EU, obtaining a license in the country may facilitate easier access to other European markets, depending on reciprocal agreements and regulations.
- Taxation Clarity: The tax regime for online gambling in Bulgaria is clear and fixed at 10%, allowing for predictable financial planning.
Consumer Protection Alignment: Adhering to Bulgaria’s licensing regulations ensures alignment with international best practices in terms of fair play and consumer protection.
- Stringent Requirements: The licensing process can be rigorous, demanding significant financial capital, extensive documentation, and compliance with various technical and legal standards.
- Costs: Between application fees, investment requirements, and ongoing compliance, the overall financial burden may be high.
- Bureaucracy and Time-Consuming: The application review process, lasting between 60 and 90 days, coupled with potential bureaucratic hurdles, can make the process lengthy and cumbersome.
- Ongoing Compliance Obligations: Continuous adherence to regulations, including regular reporting and maintaining internal rules and procedures, can be resource-intensive.
- Limited Scope for Online Lotteries: With online lotteries being a state monopoly (excluding instant lotteries), this avenue is closed for private operators, limiting the scope of activities.
- Potential Changes in Legislation: While the regulations have been relatively stable, future changes to the legal framework could introduce uncertainties and additional compliance burdens.
Securing an Online Gambling License in Bulgaria offers a gateway to a thriving market with clear regulations. However, the stringent requirements, associated costs, and ongoing compliance obligations necessitate careful consideration and planning. Engaging with local experts and regulatory authorities can be instrumental in navigating the process successfully.