Blacklist Constantly Growing in Poland’s Gambling Sector

Pin marking location of Warsaw, Poland's capital

The gambling sector in Poland was re-regulated in 2017. Since then, there has been a persistent campaign by the authorities to crack down on any parties that violate the new regulations, and stiff penalties are dished out. This has led to numerous complaints and even legal action from some gambling operators. However, this is not slowing down the efforts of the authorities.

Poland’s gambling sector regulations

The new set of regulatory restrictions was introduced on April 1, 2017. Upon introduction, some major betting operators, such as William Hill and Bet365, shut down their operations in Poland.

The legislature approved the changes to the Polish Gambling Act in December 2016. Any online operators that did not have a gaming license in Poland would have their payment facilities and domain blocked in the country.

The announcement of these changes led to certain operators deciding to get out of the market rather than get a new license. Pinnacle and EnergyBet were two of the first to do so; Bet365 and William Hill quickly followed suit.

One of the main issues with the changes was the continuation of the 12% sports betting revenue tax, which has been controversial. Even some cabinet ministers in Poland have called for this tax to be eradicated because it leads to market entry not being viable for many operators.

The government has indicated that this tax may be looked at again at some stage in the future through separate legislation, but there have been no indications of this happening any time soon. On July 1, the blocking measures began, cracking down on the operators that failed to comply with the new regulations and didn’t obtain a new license.

The current sector situation

Since the introduction of these new rules, there has been no let-up by the government authority in charge of detecting and penalizing violators. The Finance Ministry works closely with local internet service providers to block the websites of blacklisted companies. More than 2,300 domains have been blacklisted.

The well-known online operator Bet at Home was one of the latest entities to become part of this list. This came just a week after the company was fined £355,000 ($465,000) in the Netherlands for targeting Dutch bettors without having a local license.

The online gaming operators have been out crying about Poland’s strict regime, calling it over-restrictive and unfair. Some of them have even taken the legal route to try to get the regulations overturned. They have claimed that these regulations violate European Union principles. However, a court in Poland has ruled that the lawmakers can continue with their existing blacklisting policy.

The Warsaw Provincial Administrative Court issued that ruling in response to the complaints that were filed by five different gambling operators based in Malta and Sweden. These companies said that their reputations had been tarnished as a result of being blacklisted.

No issue was found by the court and the case will now be looked at by the European Commission. The commission has not made negative comments about how Polish authorities are punishing violators. The Polish ombudsman was one of those who spoke out against this ruling, saying that the practice of blacklisting these companies is a violation of “freedom of speech and access to information.”

The future

To operate as an international sports betting provider in Poland, a company needs a license from the Ministry of Finance. Only nine such licenses have been issued since this rule was implemented in April 2017. The last company to obtain such a license was the Swedish gambling company Cherry AB.

The main reason for the lack of interest in these licenses is the massive 12% tax rate on a company’s revenues in Poland. Most other countries have tax rates nowhere near this mark.

There is still a state-run monopoly in the state, with all casino games being operated by Totalizator Sportowy. Poland will open its online platform this coming autumn. Playtech will be the gaming software provider for this offering.