UNPLEASANT SURPRISE FOR POLISH ONLINE GAMBLING
New legalization effectively establishes a state-owned monopoly in a surprising change of attitude.
Just months ago the Ministry of Finance in Poland was making encouraging noises that indicated a more liberalised online gambling market in which operators could offer slots and well as sports betting.
However this week government appeared to have forgotten about the "liberalised" part in an amendment to the Polish Gambling Act that effectively rules out competition and grants the state-owned Totalizator Sportowy control over all “games of chance on the internet.”
Reporting on the amendment, the publication Warsaw Voice noted that governments justification for the move was the addictive nature of slot playing and the need to control the grey market in some forms of gambling (read slot machines located outside of licensed land casinos and online gaming.)
The government expects the amendments, which exclusively allow Totalizator Sportowy to offer online casino as well as sports betting, to generate around Euro 145 million in the first year after implementation, Euro 340 million in the second and Euro 530 million in the third and beyond.
Early indications are that online poker will be a more open market, allowing foreign companies who meet the governments requirements to obtain licensing.
In what is now a familiar state government strategy for online gambling, the Poles plan to start a blacklist of unlicensed operators accessing the Polish market, which will be used to enforce ISP-blocking and enforcement through financial transaction blocking.
Contrary to earlier reports that the government was reconsidering its ruinous 12 percent tax on sports betting turnover, the amendment retains that tax rate instead of changing it to a more reasonable 20 percent of GGR as was proposed by some lawmakers.
What the European Commission will make of the monopolistic amendments, which the Poles want to implement by January 2017, remains open to speculation; the changes must be approved before the amendments are finally signed off by the national parliament.