Bulgaria bolsters blacklist; Hungarian state operator takes the online lead

hungary-bulgariaBulgaria has added 28 more online gambling domains to its blacklist of naughty operators, including UK bookies William Hill and online poker behemoth PokerStars (dot-com and dot-bg). The first draft of Bulgaria’s blacklist contained 20 names, most of them of the sports betting variety. The new entries are decidedly more casino- and poker-themed, including Full Tilt Poker, PartyPoker and Titan Poker.

Bulgarian State Gambling Commission chairman Ivan Enicherov said there was a “simple principle” for inclusion on the blacklist: you’re an operator who offers a Bulgarian-language menu or “directly targets” Bulgarian punters without a local license. Yet Hills’ terms and conditions make it clear that Bulgarians aren’t welcome, and a Titan spokesperson told eGamingReview that the company had stopped taking Bulgarian action seven years ago. The suggestion has been made that at least some of the blacklisted names made the grade based solely on their appearance on other continental blacklists.

Regardless, Enicherov sees no reason to change his approach, telling local newspaper Capital Daily that the publication of the first blacklist has already resulted in “one of the largest web poker organizers” issuing a “letter of intent” with regard to pursuing a Bulgarian license. Bulgaria passed its online gambling legislation last year and ordered the nation’s internet service providers to IP-block unlicensed sites beginning this March. Problem is, the country’s online gambling regulations haven’t been implemented, leaving blacklisted operators with no proper avenue via which to apply for legal licenses. Quite the catch-22, or as the locals say, улова двадесет и две.

In January, the Remote Gambling Association sounded the alarm over Hungary’s plan to charge operators upfront fees of HUF 100m (US $440k) for each single product they planned to offer Hungarian online gamblers under a newly regulated market. The RGA claimed these fees would discourage operators from seeking licenses, leaving the market easy pickings for Hungarian state lottery and sports betting outfit Szerencsejáték, which was automatically grandfathered into the online playground.

Last month, the RGA’s apocalyptic scenario came true with the launch of Szerencsejáték’s online sports betting site. The site, which is powered by Spielo G2 (formerly known as GTECH G2), was supposed to launch last summer, but Spielo G2 didn’t deliver the product until December, and the site only just finished its test run. The delay in getting this pig to market required Spielo G2 to fork over an indemnity worth HUF 106m ($466k).