Bulgaria Approves eCOGRA as iGaming Testing Agency; PokerStars Looks to Enter Market
eCOGRA, an independent online gambling testing and monitoring company, has been approved as a testing laboratory for aspiring online poker and casino operators looking to enter Bulgaria's emerging Internet gambling market.
The announcement came last week after eCOGRA completed an assessment and accreditation program administered by the Bulgarian State Gambling Commission (SGC). eCOGRA was required to comply with the SGC’s strict requirements for testing laboratories and demonstrate complete independence from any potential software supplier and operator.
According to a report by eGaming Review on Tuesday, three internet gambling applications are under review in Bulgaria, including industry leaders PokerStars and Betfair. Additional operators have also expressed interest in the space, according to the report.
"Our application followed interest expressed by some of the industry’s leading software suppliers and operators who are clients of eCOGRA and are now expressing interest in obtaining a Bulgarian license," said Tex Rees, director of eCOGRA. "This followed the change by the Bulgarian government to a tax based on gross gaming revenue, and strict but more practical technical and other operating requirements."
Bulgaria legalized online gambling in 2012, but it took until last year to adopt an online gambling tax rate deemed acceptable by operators. The country had initially instituted a 15% tax on total gambling turnover, a move that resulted in operators fleeing the country to provide their services offshore.
In December, Bulgaria's parliament amended the Gambling Act to reduce the tax to 20% of gross monthly profits, plus a one-time license fee of BGN100K (€51K). The new law went into effect at the beginning of this year. Yordan Tsonev, chairperson of the Budget and Finance Committee in Bulgaria, believes that the arrival of new operators in the market could boost tax revenues to more than $35 million by 2015.