For a local economy to succeed, it needs to embrace a wide range of opportunities. In a society where the majority of the population work during the day, a thriving nightlife gives them the chance to relax, unwind, and spend their hard-earned cash. And at a holiday resort like Bansko, where much of the tourism is seasonal, the late night entertainment can generate enough revenue to balance out the slow times.

However, the town of Bansko has just taken the controversial decision to prohibit the building of new night-time entertainment. There are currently 20 such establishments in the area and the local government feel that these are adequate to cater to the needs to the tourists. They have also placed an embargo on the building of more hotels for the same reason. While this might seem like good news for the bars and clubs already operating – a lack of competition should protect their profits – growth is often necessary to keep up with an expanding customer base: ensuring that the supply meets the demand.

So for a town that relies heavily on rapidly-growing tourism for its economy, this might seem like a catastrophic decision. Last season, Bankso saw a 15% increase in the number of visitors compared to the previous year. During the day, the ski lifts and drags which serve the many slopes are used by upwards of 25,000 people every hour. But when they close, the tourists remain, which is where the nightlife takes over. Bars and clubs of all colours have sprung up in the hotels, as well as in the town centre. There are casual places to lounge around with friends, enjoying a drink apr?s-ski, and neon palaces to dance into the early hours, accompanied by thudding beats and flashing lights.

However Bansko’s nightlife has come under fire recently, for the kind of entertainment offered, and the types of people it is beginning to attract. For a long time, the resorts have been favourites for families seeking a place to relax together, and there have been suggestions that they will be put off coming to somewhere garnering a reputation for drunken, all-night parties. Understandably difficult to cater to two such diametrically opposed groups, those in charge have been forced to make a difficult choice. However their decision will have been aided in part by the fact that Bansko is not just a holiday resort: The town is also home to nearly 13,000 permanent residents and the town’s mayor, Georgi Ikonomov, is keen to stress that his verdict to limit development is key in ensuring peace and quiet for them.

What seems most curious though, is the inclusion of casinos on the list of banned buildings. Nightclubs, bars, strip clubs and lap-dancing clubs can all conjure up unwholesome images – especially in a country with 24hr drinking laws and legalised prostitution – but many people associate casinos with a more glamorous clientele. The worldwide gambling industry is booming at the moment and casinos are a popular place to socialise and relax. The very nature of their activities require their customers to keep their wits about them, so although the bars are open, very few people take their drinking to extremes. They also provide employment for a variety of staff, from bartenders to chefs, security to blackjack dealers, stimulating the economy from both sides. And although many also stay open for 24hrs, they are considerably less noisy than bars and nightclubs, and far less likely to be filled with drunken and loutish customers.

Yet Bansko isn’t the only place where casinos are getting a bad deal. In Liverpool, a large industrial city in the United Kingdom, a new casino/hotel proposal has been submitted which would develop an iconic city centre building that had been left empty. However, the plans have been met with disapproval from the locals for a similar reason to those in Bansko– they feel there are already enough gambling venues nearby for people to choose from. But since when has having a choice of entertainment establishments really caused a problem?

We are in an age where everything is always readily available, most of the times thanks to the internet. The rich abundance of online casino games in the United Kingdom means that gamblers can access hundreds of versions of their favourite table game or online slot from their phone, tablet or computer. The remote gambling sector now accounts for over a third of the total gambling revenue in the UK, raking in over ?5 billion last year. Yet land-based casinos have not seen a drop in clientele to match the increase in online gamblers. The figures here seem to show that an increase in choice, simply equates and increase in revenue. And that’s never been bad for any economy.

Online gambling is also legal in Bulgaria, meaning that any tourists who choose to bet from their hotel rooms are still contributing to the local economy. While it may not have the same social benefits, perhaps increasing the online traffic, through advertising and incentives, will keep the gambling industry stimulated and continue to provide alternative evening entertainment for the tourists. For those parents who need to find something to do while their tired children sleep, the ability to gamble together without leaving their rooms might well prove a welcome option.

Wanting to develop a resort that caters to a wide variety of clientele is obviously a solid business model. And needing to respect the wishes of the town’s permanent residents is hugely important, especially as many of them are the business owners or members of the work force. But with 20 established night-time venues already open year-round, with no restrictions on operating hours and some of the cheapest alcohol prices on the continent, it seems that merely preventing more of the same from being built might not be the quick and easy answer that the mayor of Bansko is looking for.

 

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