Despite a challenge by four operators, one from Sweden and three from Malta, the Regional Administrative Court in Warsaw has once again allowed Poland to add gambling operators to its blacklist.
The blacklist, which is controlled by the Ministry of Finance, currently holds some 2,379 domains.
Why the blacklist?
In December 2016, Poland agreed on massive changes to its gambling laws. The Polish Gambling Act confirmed that only operators with a local license would be allowed to carry on, and any punters that tried to gamble online or enter payment details would find that the ISP was blocked.
Poland’s government started a test blacklist in March 2017, but this quickly grew to include all online operators offering gambling services without a local license.
This has kept betting in Poland heavily moderated, and taxed at the rate of 12%.
Once a company has been blacklisted, Poland’s amended gambling legislation compels internet service providers (ISPs) to block access to blacklisted websites no more than 48 hours after their inclusion on the register. Failing to comply could lead to fines of up to PLN500,000 (£102,035; $135,000).
After a year of a steadily increasing blacklist, bookmakers from Malta and Sweden brought five challenges to the ruling earlier this week.
In the past, foreign gambling operators have criticized Poland’s registry of blocked websites, arguing that the ministry should not be allowed to decide whether a website is added to the blacklist without a court ruling.
Although the four bringing the challenges were unnamed, initials were provided that have been linked to some of the more popular operators. Unfortunately, their case was quashed.
It was thought that the decision by the government might be ruled illegal under Article 3 of European law because large operators rapidly pulled out of the country following the original ruling. Bet365, Paddy Power, and Betfair all left before the act was implemented on April 1st.
However, the five new challenges were ultimately dismissed in the ruling.
There was a small window of hope when the European Union ruled in February to stop “geo-blocking,” the process of blocking access to internet services based on location.
According to their decision, 75% of Poles feel unfairly affected by geo-blocking, and the bill itself was put forward by Polish MEP Róża Thun. She said: “Thanks to the new law, each of us will feel a substantial change for the better. No more refusal to sell goods or services online because of the place of residence or nationality of the customer. No more refusal to sell depending on the country where the credit card was issued.”
However, gambling was deemed to not fit within these criteria.
Quashed challenges ‘welcome’
The finance ministry welcomed the Administrative Court rulings, saying in a statement that the court had confirmed its stance and the legal reasoning behind its decisions.
In its ruling, the Warsaw-based court “has emphasized that the legislator had the right to regulate the question of illegal gambling on the internet. It was also indicated that the changes in the provisions of the gambling law were notified to the European Commission, and as such, the law is not in violation of the EU law,” the ministry said.
“In addition to this, the court, by invoking Article 3 of the gambling law, said that an entity which lacks a relevant license, permission, or did not file an application, is not authorized to organize gambling, including on the Internet and by offering such games it violates the law.”
Whether the operators involved will now apply for a Polish license remains to be seen, but it doesn’t look good for other operators who might have been thinking about bringing any further legal challenges.
Poland means business when it comes to its blacklist.