Bulgaria for Online Gambling RegulationBy: Joe Valentino, Monday March 19th 2012
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The latest reports from Bulgaria indicate that the legislators have agreed to regulate online gambling. However, the move to block unlicensed operators has been criticized. This was revealed by the Bulgarian Focus news agency.
The required laws have been passed. The immediate next step is the finalization of the regulations by the State Gambling Commission. Then these regulations will have to be approved by the Sofia Regional Court. After that the ban on the unlicensed operators will become effective. The practical difficulties that could arise during the implementation of the ban were discussed by the legislators during the second reading of the bill and it was decided to prepare a black list of those local and foreign online gambling operators sought to be excluded. The new regulatory regime will set licensing requirements for all online casino operators, and instructions will be issued to Internet service providers to block access to unlicensed gambling operators in the black list. There will be advertising restrictions placed on the licensed operators. The Bulgarian government has estimated that the regulation of online gambling could add €50 million per year to the state's revenues.
Another Bulgarian publication Novinite has reported that Internet freedom activists have already launched a protest against the law authorizing the blocking of unlicensed online gambling websites. The protesters have demanded of the new Bulgarian President Rosen Plevneliev that he vetoes the Gambling Act and sends it back to the country's parliament. These activists included "No to ACTA and Internet Control", "Internet Society Bulgaria" and "Association of Independent Internet Providers". They have written an open letter to Plevneliev asking not only for the presidential veto but for a full fledged debate on alternatives that do not violate citizens' rights. These activists do not have a stand on online gambling as such and are merely against any censorship of the Internet.
The activists claim that filtering Internet traffic is unhealthy because it does not prosecute the violators of the law, which are the owners of unlicensed online casinos and online poker rooms. Instead it punishes consumers by limiting their access to Internet sites. They are also afraid that such blocking of sites can become a precedent. This can pave the way for governments wanting to control the Internet for the "right content" to limiting access to Facebook and Twitter.
If the Internet service providers were to implement the blocking instructions then their costs would increase sharply and they would have to pass these on to their consumers. Thus citizens having no desire to visit online gambling sites would also have to pay the price for the filtering systems. This had earlier been brought to the notice of the Bulgarian legislators by the Internet service providers.
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