SOFIA (Bulgaria), March 26 (SeeNews) - Bulgaria's State Commission on Gambling (SCG) said it has suspended the licence of local private betting operator Eurofootball for a period of three months due to unpaid state fees.
Eurofootball owes some 329 million levs ($184 million/ 168.2 million euro) in unpaid state fees, including interest, for the period from December 2014 to December 2019, the gambling regulator said in a decision published on its website on Wednesday.
Eurofootball can resume its activities only if it pays its debt to the state within the three-month period, SCG said.
According to Bulgaria’s Gambling Act, the regulator may suspend the licence of any operator with debts exceeding 5,000 levs and carrying no collateral.
The SCG's decision can be challenged before Sofia Administrative Court-Sofia within 14 days since its publication.
As a result of the SCG's decision 2,300 employees of the betting operator are at risk of losing their jobs, while about 800 point-of-sale partners may lose their source of income, Eurofootball said in a statement published on its website.
The company also noted that the regulator's decision has been enforced during a state of emergency in the country, declared on March 13 due to the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.
"Bulgaria's state budget will be deprived of millions of levs in monthly proceeds, which would be otherwise used for the benefit of our society," Eurofootball said in its statement.
Eurofootball is linked to Bulgarian businessman Vasil Bozhkov, who was recently charged in absentia in the country for organising a crime group, coercion, blackmail, tax crimes, money laundering and other crimes.
Closing down a working company during a time of economic collapse in the country caused by the COVID-19 pandemic raises questions, local bTV quoted Bozhkov as saying.
Earlier this week, labour minister Daniela Sacheva said that the number of unemployed people in Bulgaria is rising sharply as a consequence of the coronavirus pandemic and this trend is expected to persist.
Eurofootball, founded in 1990, offers betting on sports and horse and dog racing.
(1 euro = 1.95583 levs)