The Bulgarian government has unveiled plans to privatise its Bulgarian Sports Totalisator brand, the currently state-owned betting and lottery company.
This comes despite warnings from the country that BST will encounter difficulties should it press ahead with commercialisation.
As part of a swathe of privatisations proposed in the Bulgarian public sector, local media reported that former Bulgarian Deputy Prime Minister, Kalina Konstantinova, noted that BST will become a joint-stock enterprise’, whilst the remaining three state-owned entities covered under the proposals will become ‘administrative structures’.
However, the state lottery firm may lose its ability to transfer funds to the Ministry of Sports, controversial as this has been a key objective since its inception in 1957 under its remit to support school sports.
Radositin Vasilev, Bulgaria’s Sports Minister, was reported to say that the commercialisation of the Totalisator was not feasible “for a number of reasons that will lead to extremely difficult, practically impossible (future)”.
Vasilev asserted that should it be privatised, Bulgaria’s Sports Ministry would then be unable to directly deduct funds from the BST’s revenue, rendering it redundant under its initial remits. BST transferred BGN42m (€21.47m) to the Ministry of Sports in 2021.
Additionally, a separate concern has also been raised regarding licences, as some such as instant lotteries can only be held by the state.
Without changes to the current legislative infrastructure, the Minister argues this could adversely affect the BST’s fiscal contribution to state coffers. As the lottery provider and operator of the Toto BG retail business, the firm paid BGN 42.5m (€21.7m) in licensing fees last year.
Vasilev also detailed that the government should hold off on the privatisation of the Totalisator until these concerns are addressed, arguing that to move ahead with the plans would require changes to current Bulgarian gambling and commercial legislation.
“I am very worried that it should not happen that, as a commercial enterprise, we lose the funds, which should then go directly to the finances (the state budget),” he remarked.
“The method of distribution will change, we have to touch the Gambling Act, we need to change the Tote Law itself, the Commercial Act needs to be changed on this thing, rather I’m worried that at the moment it shouldn’t be a commercial enterprise, but seeing that there are others who are ready and they are not ready, most likely with no analysis, let’s so, if possible, wait.”