Regional media reports from Bulgaria paint a gloomy picture of a gambling industry in dire straits as punters stay away in a deep economic recession.
The tough times being experienced by the industry came into sharp focus at the Balkan Gambling Industry Exhibition currently running in Sofia, where the chairman of the State Commission on Gambling, Dimitar Terziev, revealed that 60 gambling enterprises have been closed in Bulgaria and as many again have suspended their activities since January 2009 due to the global economic crisis.
This had resulted in payment problems for gambling equipment and some 420 issues in which the Commission had become involved, including online betting and SMS games.
Many casinos and gambling halls are facing bankruptcy because of the decline in the number of gambling visitors, Terziev said.
"Since the beginning of 2009, we have been witnessing a trend of gambling halls closing down", he added, revealing that last year 52 licenses were not extended, and 39 gambling halls closed down. And statistics thus far - to the end of September 2009 - showed that another 60 halls discontinued their licensing before it had expired. One casino was closed, and another one followed its fate on October 1, 2009.
Currently, there are 22 casinos, 23 bingo halls, and 975 gambling halls operating in Bulgaria, Terziev said, advising that Bulgaria's gambling business turnover has been cut in half since the beginning of 2009.
Ivan Tsankarski, board member of Casino Technologies, said the reduction in gambling turnover was directly affecting sales of gaming and gambling equipment, with sales of slot machines the worst-hit.
Other industry managers confirmed that the industry was in serious trouble, with sales of gaming equipment sliding more than 60 percent.