Thursday, October 11, 2018

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Around 3% of Bulgaria’s Population Hit by Gambling Addiction

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Around 3% of Bulgaria’s Population Hit by Gambling Addiction

Despite being the poorest EU country, Bulgaria has a booming gambling industry

More than 200,000 Bulgarians suffer from one form of gambling addiction or another, local news outlet 24 Chasa reports citing information from a report compiled last year. Bulgaria is the poorest nation in the European Union by GNI per capita, but it has a thriving gambling industry now worth around BGN3 billion (€1.5 billion, $1.8 billion).

Bulgarian psychotherapist Anna Todorova has told 24 Chasa that around 53% of the male population of the country and 44% of its female population gambled last year. Introduced several years ago, the so-called scratchcards have turned into Bulgaria’s most popular gambling product. Companies selling those recorded revenue of BGN320 million in 2016, up 30% from the previous year. It is believed that the sector has grown even further over the past two years, mainly thanks to aggressive marketing campaigns.

Ms. Todorova has pointed out that there are three main groups of Bulgaria’s population that are at high risk of developing gambling addiction or related gambling-related issues. She has explained that young people are at the greatest risk as they are more impulsive and the parts of the brain that are dedicated to judgment and decision-making are still developing.

According to the psychotherapist, people with low education, those living in poverty, and pensioners represent the second group of those at high risk to fall victims to one form of gambling addiction or another. The third group, according to Ms. Todorova, includes people who are genetically prone to addiction as well as people who are looking to replace one form of addiction with another.

Gambling Adverts Restrictions

As mentioned earlier, gambling services, particularly ones involving the purchase of the extremely popular scratchcards, are advertised heavily across Bulgarian media, and the growth of the nation’s gambling industry can be largely attributed to the aggressive advertising campaigns run by licensed operators.

Earlier this year, Deputy Prime Minister Valeri Simeonov and his party, the National Front for the Salvation of Bulgaria, introduced a bill calling for the implementation of significant restrictions to the aggressive promotion of gambling services. The piece of legislation also proposed a significant reduction in the number of facilities where scratchcards can be purchased from.

As mentioned above, the local gambling market was worth around BGN3 billion in 2017 or 3% of the nation’s gross domestic product. Minister Simeonov’s bill first needs to be reviewed by European authorities before being implemented, it became known earlier this year. The piece of legislation secured much-needed support from the ruling Citizens for the European Development of Bulgaria party (GERB) as well as from the Bulgarian Socialist Party.

Despite the major political backing, the bill was also criticized by many as too restrictive. According to opponents, massive restrictions in the way gambling services are promoted would hurt tax revenue contributions to the nation’s coffers.

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