The Bulgaria stop on PokerStars’ “Eureka!” tour of Central & Eastern Europe concluded over the weekend. 407 players played the €1100-buyin main event, and many more turned out for the smaller side events that ran simultaneously throughout the week.
Yet none of these players could access pokerstars.com to download the online poker client, nor could they use the PokerStars mobile app, or access competing sites like Full Tilt Poker, PartyPoker, 888 and almost 100 other websites.
The unfortunate situation is the result of the unexpected, swift and successful country-wide implementation of an exhaustive blacklist of online gambling domains.
Players at the Eureka event told pokerfuse that access to PokerStars.com, PokerStars.bg and PokerStars.EU were completely inaccessible during the trip, as were the domains of most of its competitors.
If the poker client was already downloaded, players could continue to play for real-money. However, one player reported that the PokerStars mobile client was also unusable, prompting for a software update that was inaccessible—reminiscent of the ongoing situation in Australia.
Bulgarian online poker forums are flooded with discussions on the current legal situation, and include players swapping tips on using VPNs, and sharing links of re-hosted online poker clients to download.
According to player reports, Vivacom, formerly a state-owned monopoly and Bulgaria’s primary telecommunications provider, is immediately implementing the blacklists when ordered to by the court. It is by far the largest ISP and 3G network in the country.
Smaller ISPs apparently lag behind implementing the blacklist, and some domains are still accessible on these networks.
The blacklist arose from the Bulgarian Gambling Act, enacted in July last year, which requires the State Gambling Commission to prevent access to unlicensed sites. Technically, all the blacklisted companies are also liable to pay fines, but Bulgaria has no enforcement mechanism available to it at present.
A spokesperson for PokerStars was not available to comment on the situation.