Poland has some of the most restrictive gambling legislation in Europe. However, on the 15th of December 2016, the President signed a significant new amendment to the 2009 Gambling Act into law. The amendment was far-reaching and had many elements to oust offshore operations from the country. In addition, the legislation paved the way for regulated operators.
Amendments to Existing Regulation
The amendment included the creation of a register of unlicensed websites, particularly ones that are available in the Polish language or advertised in Poland. The Minister of Finance manages the register, and he has the final say over whether a company should or should not be blacklisted. ISPs will be required to block any black-listed sites, and payment service providers will not be able to work with them. Failure to comply with the legislation could result in hefty fines.
Reduction in Offshore Operators
Since its introduction, the offshore gambling market has fallen from 80% to 25%. Totalizator Sportowy commissioned H2 Gambling Capital to carry out a study on the effect of the legislation. The report found that 120 websites are actively targeting Polish players.
In 2020, offshore online gambling in Poland was worth $165 million. It is reported that the offshore market would have been much larger without the amendment to the legislation. The amendment allowed the government to launch a regulated gambling market and block unauthorized operators targeting Polish residents.
Legal gambling operators currently control 78% of the Polish online casinos and betting platforms. However, the illegal gambling market is expected to grow by 3.9% by 2026, compared to 4.1% growth for the regulated operators.
Calls For More Liberal Attitudes
The UN Global Compact is an organisation that aims to harmonize rules on a global scale to ensure fairness in terms of human rights, the environment and anti-corruption initiatives. This organization believes that more liberal laws mean that markets are of less interest to criminal operators.
The view is that as people want to gamble, they will do so. If this is done in a fair and regulated framework, it is easier to prevent harms associated with problem gambling. However, Kamil Wyszkowski of the UN Global Compact says that if regulation is too oppressive, legal operators leave the market, and this can create a vacuum for unscrupulous businesses to move in.
Regulated and legitimate operators provide revenue for countries and offer responsible gambling opportunities for customers. In addition, working with regulators means that these platforms can implement anti-money laundering checks and help customers avoid fraudulent schemes.
Only 1.5% of adult Poles have ever played on an illegal betting site. While 2.6% say they have visited offshore poker and casino sites.
The recommendation in the report is to optimize the conditions for the regulated market rather than placing unnecessary regulation on businesses which operate legally. The overall conclusion is that prohibition is a blunt tool.
Revenue Generation Opportunities
If Poland was to follow some of the less restrictive regimes in Europe, the report notes that it could create significant revenues for the Polish economy. In 2020 the market potential of the Polish online gambling market was $1.08 billion gross, with $236million being generated by offshore gambling companies. The report estimated that around $473 million could be raised by taxing online betting and casino gaming through the current regulatory system. These revenues could go as high as $600 million if the state were prepared to open up the market beyond its current monopoly and lift its advertising ban.
The report points out that the advertising ban is counterproductive. It is harmful to the legal operators in the country, but it does not prevent illegal operators from communicating with Poles interested in gambling. In fact, the report says that it allows them to flood the Polish market with ads while the regulated organizations cannot do anything. While the blocking of unregulated operators is seen as being successful, the wholesale advertising ban on legal betting companies means that customers are constantly redirected to the grey market.