Sports clubs in Bulgaria are protesting against the Government’s plans to forcibly close approximately 600 casino venues across the country as part of the authorities’ efforts to impose stricter regulation on gambling. Local sports clubs call for the Government to reconsider the measures, saying that the move jeopardizes their survival.
For the time being, bookmakers are the main sponsors of several professional sports clubs, including Ludogorets, Lokomotiv Plovdiv and several clubs in the lower divisions. They also have partnership agreements with some basketball and volleyball teams and competitions. Currently, twelve of the fourteen top soccer clubs in Bulgaria display gambling companies’ names on their shirts.
Earlier in June, a junior coalition partner of the country’s Government, the NFSB party, proposed a piece of legislation under which all casinos in Bulgaria would be suspended except the ones operating at five-star hotels in several holiday resorts. If the recently submitted bill is turned into law, it would see approximately 600 casinos and other gambling venues shut by 2025 as part of the center-right Government to tackle corruption and limit gambling participation rates among young people.
Valeri Simeonov, the leader of the NFSB party, described the proposed piece of legislation as a second step aimed at tackling gambling addiction rates in Bulgaria after private lotteries were banned earlier this year. According to Mr. Simeonov, the proposal is in the best interest of Bulgarian society.
Sports Clubs in Bulgaria Say They Would Hardly Survive without Their Gambling Sponsorships
However, local sports clubs have claimed that the changes would threaten the existence of many of them. These claims have been supported by Ludogorets FC in a statement issued on June 14th following similar statements made by other sports clubs.
Many sports clubs in Bulgaria have been experiencing significant infrastructure difficulties and are finding it hard to meet the financial conditions which the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) had set for them. The recent outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic has not made things easier.
Yesterday, the basketball federation in Bulgaria shared that any amendments to the existing gambling law of the country would hit Bulgarian sport hard.
On the other hand, the proposed bill was also commented by the Bulgarian Gambling Association. The regulatory body explained that any changes that may be implemented to the country’s legal regime regarding the gambling industry should be first considered, discussed and approved by the Association so that the watchdog takes into account their possible impact on the industry and the state budget.
According to experts, if the proposed amendment bill is turned into law, the suspension of the casino venues will lead to about 30,000 job losses across the industry. Furthermore, the state budget is also expected to face negative consequences, as the gambling sector has been donating part of its revenue to the country’s coffers.