Bill on the Amendment to the Polish Gambling Act adopted

At a meeting of the Council of Ministers on 19 July 2016, the Bill on the Amendment to the Gambling Games Act and Certain Other Acts, tabled by the Ministry of Finance, was adopted. The Ministry stressed that its main objective was to limit the so-called “grey zone”, protect players against the negative consequences of gambling and increase social awareness of the risks associated with illegal gambling.

The Bill introduces many changes, with the most important including: an extension of the catalogue of gambling games offered online (while establishing a monopoly of a State Treasury company, except in the case of betting and promotional lotteries), telecom companies blocking websites of gambling operators not licensed in Poland (a list of prohibited domains will be included in the Register of Domains Used for Offering Gambling Games Contrary to the [Gambling] Act and published on a website hosted by the Minister of Finance) and the obligation of payment operators to block payments of transactions with unlicensed gambling operators, a possibility to organise offline poker tournaments outside casinos (online poker is to be subject to the aforesaid State monopoly), waiving the need to obtain professional licences by persons supervising and directly conducting gambling games, and the introduction of the State monopoly on organising games on gaming machines in gaming machine venues (the State Treasury company exercising this monopoly will not be able to outsource the running of such gaming machine venues to third parties under an agency agreement).

Moreover, the catalogue of entities liable to fines for breaching the Act has been extended, and the obligation to draw up and apply responsible gaming regulations by operators organising specified gambling games has been imposed on these operators.

The Bill does not mention one of the most important issues for onshore and offshore operators, i.e. the gaming tax base. Under the current rules, in many cases regulations specifying the sum of the stakes paid by players and not the Gross Gaming Revenue (GGR) as the tax base and forbidding adding up the bases in casino games often constitute an encumbrance on the operators’ margin, thus discouraging them from commencing activity in Poland.

The proposed effective date of the amended Act is 1 January 2017, which may be problematic in view of the need to notify the European Commission of the amendment. The adopted model of regulations where any and all online gambling games apart from betting and promotional lotteries are subject to State monopoly without providing wider justification of the adequacy and proportionality of this measure may give rise to doubts as to the compliance of such regulations with EU law. Thus, one may expect objections to be raised in the notification process, prolonging the procedure and making the planned effective date of the amendment doubtful.