Bulgaria missed its chance to reduce its much-loathed gambling tax rate on Thursday, as parliamentarians narrowly decided to postpone a vote on the relevant legislation. Earlier this month, a group of 11 Bulgarian MPs proposed a bill that would eliminate the punitive 15% tax on betting turnover in favour of a more reasonable 20% tax on gross profits. The existing tax scheme has not surprisingly failed to convince international operators to form a queue at the Bulgarian gambling regulator’s license-issuing window, with Malta’s efbet.com the only Bulgarian-authorized online gambling site to date.
The Bulgarian authorities have responded to this snub by instituting a blacklist of Bulgarian-facing websites that currently contains over 150 domains. Yordan Tsonev, member of the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (DPS) party and one of the 11 MPs who proposed the tax relief, claims that over 40 operators have declared their willingness to come in from the cold if the proposed tax changes are implemented.
Opponents of the new tax plan say the legislation is flawed, in that it would have operators declare their revenue to the State Commission on Gambling (SCG), rather than the National Revenue Agency. The critics say this will allow operators to fudge their data and thereby deprive the state of tax revenue, as the SCG lacks the authority to verify the data it receives. Members of the Bulgarian Socialist Party – the DPS’ partners in the ruling coalition – also complained that the legislation hadn’t been discussed by the party’s parliamentary group prior to Thursday’s debate. The verbal sparring is scheduled to resume next week.
Meanwhile, the Bulgarian blacklist has shrunk by three names, all of which are operated by UK betting outfit William Hill. The SCG expunged the sites – williamhill.com, 21nova.com and joylandcasino.com – after determining that they weren’t doing business with Bulgarian punters.