Bulgaria is located in south-east Europe and borders the Black Sea to the east. They also border Turkey to the south-east, Greece to the south, Macedonia to the south-west, Serbia to the west and Romania to the north.
Bulgaria has regulated the online gambling industry in recent years, but they didn't really start out on the right foot. In 2012, they started their regulation of the industry with absurdly high taxes that kept out just about all operators.
They realized that this was counter-productive, and within a year, they offered…
… a much more attractive tax and fee option. This allowed them to very quickly acquire major licensees (like PokerStars and Betfair) within months.
There are two things that really define how they have tried to regulate the industry.
First, they do not require player segregation when it comes to online poker pools, so they can play with people from across the globe. This has not been the adopted practice for all forms of online gambling, and further restrictions are still in the works as the government is very much concerned with maintaining a safe and secure online gambling industry.
Second, they ban foreign sites that are not regulated in the country. This is a common sense approach that offers the best of both worlds to both operators and players, so it's a win-win for everyone involved.
In further detail, they initially started off building the industry with locally licensed operators only. This type of policy allowed the Gambling Commission to build up quite a collection of blacklisted operators, a practice that has been the subject of great debate.
Licensing is set up in a way that allows foreign operators to apply to offer their games to players in Bulgaria.
They aren't required to have offices in the country, but they are required to adhere to certain business practices that keep players safe and the games legitimate. Because their licensing process is so relatively open to operators, there is a good amount of competition inside of Bulgaria, and this also helps to keep the pressure on the companies to offer a secure and legitimate experience.
The latter part is particularly important to Bulgarian lawmakers, which is why they have ultimately chosen the reputable eCOGRA company to perform the required testing and audits prior to the licensing authorization.
Local operators that entered the industry from the start were obliged to adhere to other specific provisions. This meant that the operator needed to have an office in the country, along with a 5-year experience in the industry, and ultimately, to hold a license with the respective authority – the State Commission on Gambling. The one-off licensing fee was set at €51,127 by the end of 2013, around the same time that changes in their tax policies were made.
Hence, by December 2013, operators that met the preconditions could apply for a license by paying the fee, and later maintain it by respecting the laws and the 20% tax rate on gross gambling revenue.
Players can file complaints…
… with the controlling bodies if they feel they have been wronged by a licensed online gambling site. These complaints are taken particularly seriously because Bulgaria is all about keeping the games clean that their licensees provide, and they don't want players to have a lack of confidence in their offerings for any reason. Along these lines, it's easy to see that they have a solid level of player protections.
With that having been said, there are no protections whatsoever for playing with foreign operators. You could face punishments and lose your account balance. With such high-quality operators available in Bulgaria, it doesn't make sense to risk it at this point.
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