In southeastern Europe is the Balkan Peninsula, which is home to Bulgaria and 12 other nations either entirely or partially. Bulgaria is in the entirety category with 42,854.9 square miles of total land area and a wealth of tourist attractions that make it one of the most visited nations in the region. The country is especially popular among Israelis and Turkish citizens.
In addition to its many anterior fascinations, Bulgaria has an impressive and flourishing gambling industry.
List of Casinos in Bulgaria
Below is a list of all casinos currently operating in the regions of Bulgaria.
Astera Casino & Hotel
Casino & Hotel “Efbet” ex “Oceanic”
Casino Cherno More (Interhotel Cherno More)
Casino Shipka & Hotel
Casino Sofia Bulgaria
Casino Varna (Grand Hotel Varna Resort & Spa)
Crystal Crown Casino
Havana Casino, Hotel & Spa
Hemus Hotel and Casino
Hrizantema Hotel and Casino
INTERNATIONAL Hotel, Casino and Tower Suites
Kuban Hotel and Casino
London Casino Club (Radisson SAS Grand Hotel)
Mladost Princess Casino
Nymphes Princess Casino
Palms Mercur Casino
Princess Trimontium Casino (Ramada Plovdiv Trimontium)
Ritz Star Casino Plovdiv
Rodina Princess Casino
Royal Palace Helena Sands Hotel
Royale Palms Casino
Sofia Hotel Balkan
Sofia Princess Casino
Star Princess Casino
Viva! Casino Sofia (Sheraton Hotel Sofia Balkan)
History of Casinos in Bulgaria
While the Bulgarian territory and people are quite ancient (the earliest evidence states 1.4 million years ago and the state was established in 681 by Khan Asparukh), gambling did not find its way into the country as early as expected. In fact, gambling first received recognition in the early 1990s. However, the country has gone through a number of phases (empires, rules, and states)…and during those diverse periods, gambling might have existed with a meager recognition and participation; that, nonetheless, is a logical guess.
From the third Bulgarian state (1878-1946) through the People’s Republic of Bulgaria (1946-1991), gambling was generally prohibited and out of favour—especially during the latter period when the Bulgarian Communist Party ruled the country. As a socialist state at the time, Bulgaria—though not a part of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics—was dominated by the USSR and held gambling in low priority. Some hotels offered minimal gambling activities exclusively to foreigners.
The year 1993 marked the first legalization of land-based gambling in the country with casinos, bingo parlors, and lottery vendors as primary aims. The official and first-documented Gambling Act was issued and approved in 1999—which was in use until 2008—as a national gambling regulator (the Bulgarian State Commission on Gambling or SCG) came into existence. This attracted many local and foreign companies as well as entrepreneurs, but the legalization was detrimental to the growth of the Bulgarian gambling industry as taxes were outrageously high. In addition to the heavy tax system, licensing and regulations were very difficult to successfully execute.
Soon, a number of casinos and other gambling facilities emerged in Sofia but—as expected—the industry was not massive because of the anterior drawbacks. Following the successful acceptance of Bulgaria into the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the European Union on March 14, 2004, and January 1, 2007 (respectively), the Bulgarian authorities declared online gambling—with an exception of some specific lottery games—legal in 2008. (As a striving republic, Bulgaria applied to join the NATO and the EU as far back as 1990.)
However, those online gambling laws—like land-based gambling laws—were not attractive to operators due to the heavy tax system. Realising these flaws, the need to update the whole legal gambling bodywork of Bulgaria started in July 2010 as a draft law was introduced. The Commission could not review and finalize the draft law in 2010; therefore, Bulgarian lawmakers sent it to the European Commission in March 2011.
On reviewing the draft law, the European Commission found two flaws. First, only operators with at least five years of experience in the Bulgarian market could obtain a licence—and after obtaining the license, they would process their payments through Bulgarian banks and locate all their equipment within the Bulgarian territory. Second, there would be a total prohibition on any gambling-related advertising.
Following these flaws, the European Commission—as well as Malta and the United Kingdom—submitted their comments while potential gambling operators criticised the draft law. Hence, the law was revised—on July 20, 2011—to extend the location requirement to the whole EU and EEA territories. In March 2012, the original Gambling Act of 1999 was eventually transformed into the new Gambling Act in order to tackle the setbacks of the draft law—with respect to the respective comments—pointed out. The new Act came into effect on July 1, 2012.
The Gambling Act was further amended and supplemented several times in late-2013, most notably November 13 when lower taxation rates were introduced. After the amendments, the Offshore Act was passed and became effective on January 1, 2014. The Offshore Act—like the title implies—forbids individuals and companies outside Bulgaria, the EU, the EEA, and the Swiss Confederation from obtaining a gambling license.
Prior to the amendments, the Commission created a blacklist of unlicensed gambling websites that accept Bulgarian players on June 11, 2013, as a censoring measure. As of May 2018, there are more than 730 unlicensed gambling websites that are listed on the website and blocked by Internet Service Providers. Also, there are 11 licensed operators with over 240 licenses; these are Betfair, bet365, Efbet, WinBet, Bwin, 7777, Eurobet, Eurofootball, Telematik Interaktiv Bulgaria, PokerStars, and Bulgaria’s own Sports Totalizer.
After numerous amendments and supplements, the Bulgarian Gambling Act in use today governs all gambling activities and facilities within the length and breadth of the country in conjunction with the Ordinance No. 1 of March 27, 2013 (which handles data for online gambling) and Law No. 22 issued by the Bulgarian Minister of Finance on March 5, 2013.
Online gambling data is overseen by the National Revenue Agency while the State Commission on Gambling (under the supervision of the Minister of Finance, the finances of the Ministry of Finance, and the rulings of the Council of Ministers) oversees the licensing, regulations, auditing, and taxation of all gambling activities, facilities, equipment, distributors, and maintenance firms both online and land-based.
According to the Taxation document on the State Commission on Gambling website, there are six classifications of gambling in Bulgaria: online gambling, casino, slot machines, betting, lottery games, and bingo. As instructed in Article 10a of the Gambling Act, lottery games, bingo, slot machines, and betting operators are required to pay BGN 5,000 per year to fight problem gambling and for the resolution of disputes in gambling facilities. For the same cause (officially called “socially responsible behavior”), casino operators pay BGN 10,000 while online gambling operators pay a whopping BGN 50,000.
Additionally, the Corporate Income Tax Act of 2011 instructs online gambling operators to pay a rate of 15 percent on turnover; another Article of the Gambling Act states 20 percent on gross gaming revenues and BGN 100,000 fixed rate. Casino operators are similarly bound to pay BGN 2,000 for a gaming machine, BGN 88,000 for a gaming table, and BGN 20,000 for any other gaming equipment per year. Gaming halls pay BGN 2,000 for a slot machine per year.
Current Gambling Climate
First, casino gambling is a legal gambling activity in Bulgaria as well as lotteries and sports betting. There is an overall number of 30 casinos spread across nine distinct areas. Concerning legality, the State Commission on Gambling of the Republic of Bulgaria oversees the licensing, regulations, and auditioning (and everything in-between) of gambling activities and facilities.
In Bulgaria, casinos are often visited by foreigners and locals who have enough money to spend. Most locals simply stick to smaller gambling houses, gaming clubs, or slot machine halls while casinos appeal more to tourists. This is one reason why Bulgarian casinos are built to attract and satisfy tourists by offering many more amenities and hospitality services alongside modern Vegas-style casino games.
Therefore, the gambling climate in Bulgaria is outstanding. Games are numerous, employees are professionally trained to treat customers with care, there are several extras (such as high-class European cuisine), and the gaming environs are picturesque, mesmerizing, and undisturbed.
Casinos in Bulgaria by Area
The majority of casinos in Bulgaria are situated in the capital city of Sofia. While roughly one-third of the whole casinos are located there, Plovdiv, Varna, and Burgas also feature a decent number of casinos individually. Other casinos are located in Svilengrad, Sunny Beach, Nesebŭr, Kulata, and Blagoevgrad.
Out of the 30 casinos, Sofia Princess Casino is the crown jewel; the casino has its over 21,500 sq ft gaming space in the heart of downtown Sofia and offers a long list of games for both local and foreign players to relish. There are 220 modern gaming machines (slot, video poker, and electronic roulette) and 30 gaming tables (Blackjack, Poker, American Roulette, Baccarat, and Texas Hold’em). The casino is open 24 hours for every day of the year, has a VIP room for exclusive perks and services, and runs different raffles and draws in which players can win cash prizes.
Hemus Hotel and Casino is another popular casino; it offers more than 100 gambling machines and 11 gaming tables. INTERNATIONAL Hotel, Casino & Tower Suites is also widespread; it features over 100 gaming machines, 10 gaming tables, a private poker club dubbed the INTERNATIONAL Poker Club, a poker programme, and even a rewards programme like Caesar Entertainment’s Total Rewards.
Types of Casinos in Bulgaria
Well, there are more than just casinos in this part of Europe; there are several bingo halls, gambling houses, slot machine halls, sports betting shops, and lottery outlets throughout the country. However, there are no racetracks or racinos…yet, betting on horse and greyhound races are still very possible as several betting shops offer them and the Bulgarian Sports Totaliser is licensed to organize them.
Casino gambling is the flagship of gambling in Bulgaria and, as mentioned before, there are many large, Vegas-style casinos. And while the casino operators vary, the greater percentage of casinos are hotels or resorts which offer casinos as an amenity; those that are standalone casinos are similarly situated near hotels and resorts.
For instance, Sofia Princess Casino does not feature its own hotel services but is surrounded by resorts, hotels (four-star Ramada Sofia City Center hotel as a prime example), bars, clubs, etc. Hemus Hotel and Casino, on the other hand, has its own three-star hotel with more than 208 equipped rooms and 21 luxe suites. This is because Bulgaria welcomes a host of diverse peoples year in, year out — so, there are numerous hospitalities across the country.
In addition to the casinos being large, most casinos offer a wide range of games … and according to the law, each must offer a minimum of 15 gaming machines and five gaming tables (at least two roulette tables). The typical options players will find in most Bulgarian casinos are Pot Limit Texas Hold’em Poker, Blackjack, American Roulette, Baccarat, Slot Machines, Caribbean Stud Poker, Electronic Roulette, Texas Hold’em Poker, Punto Banco, Three Card Poker, No Limit Texas Hold’em Poker, and Oasis Poker.
Particularly, poker is quite popular in Bulgaria for video poker, live poker, and online poker games are widely known. PokerStars was the very first operator to receive a license to offer online poker in Bulgaria; the world’s largest online poker operator launched PokerStars.bg in August 2014. On the other hand, Bingo and Keno are not popular in Bulgria. There is a handful of bingo halls (Gabrovo Bingo Hall as a prime example) and a number of online casinos offer Bingo and Keno.
Apart from casino gambling, sports betting is also very popular amongst natives as they bet loads of money on various sports…and as always, football (soccer) is the undisputed champion. There are betting shops practically everywhere and online sports betting is also available. The Bulgarian Sports Totalizer monopolized sports betting alongside lotteries prior 2013; today, there are numerous operators offline and online.
And that brings us to lotteries; the Bulgarian National Lottery is operated by the Bulgarian Sports Totalizer. It offers several games (such as Lotto, 6/49, 5/35, 6/42, Toto, instant games, and scratchcards) in land-based outlets and some of them online at Toto.bg. And just like sports betting, other licensed operators are also allowed to offer lottery games online and offline.
Pertaining to online gambling, Bulgarian locals and visitors can gamble legally online—but only on locally licensed websites. From sports, lotteries, and casino games, online gambling is fully legal in Bulgaria.
Facts About Casinos in Bulgaria
– Since 1999, the minimum gambling age in Bulgaria has been 18 years.
– As of May 7, 2018, 1 BGN (Bulgarian Lev) is equal to 0.61 USD (US Dollar), 0.51 EUR (Euro), and 0.45 GBP (British Pound).
– To obtain a casino license in Bulgaria, there are investment and financial requirements of BGN 600,000 separately.- Pertaining to Bitcoin gambling, players are actually in a situation that is open to question. Bitcoin itself is quite popular in Bulgaria because the country is tech-savvy and cryptocurrencies are regarded as a virtual currency, which is permissible according to law. In fact, the country features many locally operated cryptocurrency exchanges such as Crypto.bg (owned by Bitcoin Solutions Ltd.), CryptoBank.bg (owned by Kryptobank Bulgaria), and CiX.bg (owned by Network Logic Ltd.), and a lone BTM (Bitcoin ATM) at the Interpred World Trade Center Sofia business centre in Sofia (owned and operated by Bitcoin Bulgaria Ltd). Despite the widespread use of Bitcoin; however, Bitcoin gambling is illegal on a debatable stance. For one, the Commission has blacklisted most cryptocurrency gambling websites. Also, there are no licensed online gambling operators in Bulgaria that offer crypto gambling.
– On the previous note, Bulgarians witnessed a horrible banking crackdown in December 2017 which resulted to the closure of many cryptocurrency exchanges. While Bulgarian regulations do not deem cryptocurrency illegal, banks intentionally closed the accounts of all exchanges overnight in fear that virtual currencies were beating fiat counterparts. What occurred was a temporary loss of all exchanges as they could no longer trade. As a result, many Bulgarians turned to foreign exchanges (such as LocalBitcoins.com, Coinbase, and Bitcoin.de) until Bulgaria-based cryptocurrency exchanges started processing payments via e-wallets as an everlasting solution. Bulgaria-based online payment system ePay.bg is widely used (even by Toto.bg).
– In May 2017, Bulgarian forces seized more than 213,000 BTC.
– In addition to casinos, there are hundreds of smaller gaming halls (gambling houses, gaming clubs, or slot machine halls) in Bulgaria where players can enjoy gaming machines. The minimum number of slot machines a gaming hall can offer is 10 if situated in a city with less than 30,000 people and 20 if situated in a city with more than 30,000 people. While there is no maximum limit, most gaming halls stop at 50. For one, Eldorado Bet alone utilizes seven different gaming manufacturers and operates 12 gaming clubs: six in Sofia, two in Burgas, one in Plovdiv, two in Pleven, and one in Ruse. Similarly, Palm Bet owns and operates eight gaming clubs: five in Sofia, two in Varna, and one in Velingrad. Palm Bet and Eldorado Bet are sisters of the same company so they both use seven different gaming manufacturers: Novomatic, Casino Technology, Aristocrat, IGT, WMS, ATRONIC, and EGT. Blitz Club and Queens Club are other popular gaming hall chains.
– In late April 2016, British online gambling giant bet365 dragged the State Commission on Gambling to the Administrative Court of Sofia over the regulator’s decision to restrict bet365’s operations in the country. To bet365‘s defense, the company reportedly received three different licenses in August 2015 and was awaiting a final certificate. But, the Commission revoked the licenses in February 2016 so the company could neither offer its services nor receive the final certificate. In early June of the same year, the ruling was passed in favor of the operator and the regulator was ordered to list bet365 as a licensed online gambling operator. Today, bet365 offers sports betting, casino games, and bingo to Bulgarian players.
– In the first half of 2014, the SCG published a report that points out almost BGN 30 million revenue from fines, taxes, and fees.
– As indicated in the Bulgarian Penal Code, up to six years of imprisonment awaits any licensed operator who organizes a gambling activity that violates any gambling law…in addition to a penalty fee of BGN 1,000 minimum, BGN 10,000 maximum. For an unlicensed online gambling operator, the fine ranges from BGN 1 million to BGN 200 million. For an unlicensed land-based gambling operator, the fine ranges from BGN 50,000 to BGN 200,000. Repetition of such operations or a serious violation of any gambling law will result in one to eight years of imprisonment with an additional penalty fee of BGN 2,000 minimum, BGN 50,000 maximum. Assisting unlicensed gambling in any way calls for a fine between BGN 10,000 and BGN 15,000 while advertising warrants a fine between BGN 3,000 and BGN 5,000. Lastly, players who violate a gambling law or participate in unlicensed gambling will pay a fee between BGN 500 and BGN 5,000.
– In Bulgaria, smoking indoors and in casinos (and some other public places) is completely illegal due to an amendment to the Health Law that was passed by the Bulgarian Parliament on June 1, 2012.
– When the SCG introduced the blacklist in June 2013, the majority did not approve of this method because giants (such as Ladbrokes, Unibet, bet365, Betfair, 888, Betfred, William Hill, and Sportingbet) were the first to be blacklisted as they were not licensed to operate any form of gambling activity. At the time, the Bulgarian Sports Totaliser, Eurobet, and Eurofootball were the only operators with an online gambling license. As a result, Bulgarian Trade Association of Manufacturers and Operators in the Gaming Industry (BTAMOGI) organised a protest through social media to oppose the pseudo-monopoly. Soon, the protesters appeared at the doorstep of the Chairman of State Commission on Gambling; they demanded he resign and a revision of the Gambling Act and the Corporate Income Tax Act with respect to the standard European applications. Eventually, this got resolved as soon as both acts were successfully amended in later months.
– The citizens are known to have the lowest purchasing power amongst all EU territories. Bulgaria has a GDP (PPP) per capita of 21,578 (International Monetary Fund), 19,199 (World Bank), or 21,600 (Central Intelligence Agency). Also, Bulgaria has an HDI (Human Development Index) of 0.794 and an SPI (Social Progress Index) of 74.42. To simplify, Bulgaria is poorer than most European countries but more than average in general. Nonetheless, gambling is still very active in this part of the world.
– For online casino games, 7777.bg and eCasino.bg are the most visited websites.
– If situated near a school, the casino must be at least 300 meters away from the school.
– In December 2016, the Bulgarian National Lottery partnered with popular gaming solutions provider NetEnt to offer more modern, thrilling games.
– In January 2014, the SCG approved independent testing company eCOGRA so potential operators can employ its testing mechanisms to verify the fairness, security, and efficiency of their games.
– Online gambling operator Efbet also has a land-based gambling license for its Casino & Hotel “Efbet” ex “Oceanic”, which has a casino, a sports bar, and accommodations.