The Gambling Law Review: Poland
The Act of 19 November 2009 on Gambling Games (the Act), which is the main act regulating gambling activities in Poland, specifies four forms of 'gambling games': games of chance, betting, card games and slot machine games.2 Each of these forms is further defined in the Act.3
Games of chance cover all 'games, including games organised via the internet, for cash or in-kind prizes, the result of which depends in particular on chance, and the rules of which are specified in the terms and conditions of a given game'.4 It is often difficult to distinguish whether a game involving both elements of skill and chance should be considered a 'game of chance' (and therefore regulated by the Act). It is widely understood that even a minor element of chance is sufficient for the game to be considered a 'game of chance', although not all court judgments follow this principle. Skill games are not expressly defined in Polish law; however, it is understood that competitions in which exclusively the skill of participants is assessed (competitive sports included) do not constitute an act of gambling and are not bound by the Act's restrictions.
In practice, games of chance cover lotteries, roulette, dice games and bingo. The Act further regulates various subtypes of most of these games.
Lottery-style games include:
- 'number games' – lotteries where the participants choose specific numbers or other marks and the prize is related to stakes paid (e.g., the national lottery);
- 'cash lotteries' and 'raffle lotteries' – similar to number games, but where purchase of coupons or other game tickets is required, with cash or in-kind prizes offered;
- 'promotional lotteries' – where an acquisition of a specific product, service or other proof of participation is required to participate, but the participation in the lottery itself is free of charge; and
- 'audiotex lotteries' – held via premium-rate phone calls or SMS messages.
Roulettes (or 'cylindrical games' under the Act) are defined as games where the 'participation consists of choosing numbers, signs or other distinguishing marks, the value of the prize depends on a predefined ratio of the stake and prize, and the result of the game is determined by a rotary device'.5 Cylindrical games, as well as 'dice games' – not further defined in the Act – may only be held in casinos.
Finally, among games of chance there is bingo, in three variants: cash bingo, raffle bingo (depending on the type of prizes) and telebingo (with the draw broadcasted via television).
Betting constitutes another form of gambling regulated by the Act. Betting only occurs when cash or in-kind prizes are offered. Bets that do not involve such prizes are outside the scope of the Act. There are two subtypes of betting available in Poland: totalisator systems and bookmaking.
Totalisator systems are a form of pool betting, where the winnings depend on the sum of stakes paid by all participants. Totalisator systems are only available for results of sports competitions.
Bookmaking is a form of betting in which there is no 'pool' of bets (as in totalisator systems); instead each prize is calculated on the basis of a fixed ratio of the stake paid (fixed-odds betting). Bookmaking, as opposed to totalisator systems, may cover betting for the occurrence of any events. These may or may not be related to sports; bets may also be accepted for 'virtual events' – computer-generated results of sports competitions. It is prohibited to accept bets regarding the results of number games (the national lottery). Betting on the results of other lottery-style games is not explicitly prohibited, but due to the mechanics of these games it is unlikely that it could be accepted to place bets on their results.
Polish gambling law does not recognise spread betting systems, where prizes are adjusted depending on the scale in which the result exceeds a specific value.
Card games – consisting of games of blackjack, poker, and baccarat – are another category of gambling games. Only card games for cash or in-kind prizes are regulated in the Act – other forms are outside the scope of gambling and permitted.
Slot machine gaming constitutes the final major form of gambling as understood by Polish law. The definition of slot machines is particularly confusing. The Act states that these are 'games played with the use of mechanical, electromechanical or electronic devices, computers included, as well as games that reflect the rules of slot machine games held via the internet network, for cash or in-kind prizes, where the game features an element of chance'.6 Therefore it may seem that games with no cash or in-kind prizes (such as computer games) do not fall into this category. The definition is expanded, however, as the in-kind prize also constitutes additional play time or the ability to start a new game free of charge. Moreover, in some cases even games with no prizes at all may be considered as slot machines, because under the Act, 'games played with the use of mechanical, electromechanical or electronic devices, computers included, as well as games which reflect the rules of slot machine games conducted via the internet network, organised for commercial purposes' are also considered as slot machines, 'even if there is no possibility to win any cash and/or in-kind prizes, but the game is of random character'.7 Read literally, this definition may sometimes even cover typical video games, which often feature gambling-like functionality, such as 'loot boxes'. However, the authorities have not, thus far, pursued the video game market. In a press statement in response to complaint filed by an individual against the use of loot boxes in the FIFA 19 video game, the Ministry of Finance stated that 'the current wording of the Act on Gambling Games, which provides an exhaustive list of such games, does not allow for the recognition of loot boxes as gambling as they don't meet the statutory criteria for being considered as such'.8
As a result of those problems in distinguishing between games of chance and skill, as well as the broad definitions of games in the Act, it is often difficult to assess whether or not certain activities constitute gambling. There is also a problem with games that would constitute games of chance were it not for the fact that their characteristics do not correspond with all the features of the specific games of chance included in the definitions given in the Act. As the provisions of the Act mostly relate to these specific games, such activities are effectively unregulated, while still fitting within the definition of games of chance (which may only be held in accordance with the Act). For example, it may be argued that free prize draws, which are similar to promotional lotteries but where making a purchase is not required, still constitute games of chance. There are disputes regarding the legal assessment of this situation. It can be argued that because all games of chance have to follow the Act, and if the Act does not explicitly allow such games to be organised, then they are illegal. On the other hand, free prize draws, in general, do not expose their participants to significant danger – therefore, it is reasonable to expect that they are not outlawed. The latter stance seems to be supported by the reasoning presented in the press statement of the Ministry of Finance quoted above. Furthermore, in a recent judgment,9 the Supreme Administrative Court declared a free prize draw held on Facebook to be a promotional lottery. The court held that the requirement to acquire a proof of participation in order to participate in the lottery is met if there is a requirement for the customer to 'like' a specific Facebook post, and that the term 'to acquire' in this context does not necessarily refer to making a purchase. In effect, according to the court organising a free prize draw on Facebook requires a promotional lottery permit, despite the fact that customers do not have to pay anything to participate in it. The judgment is considered controversial, and it is in conflict with earlier judgments of lower courts held in similar cases.
Similarly, 'fantasy league'-style contests are also not defined in Polish law. While in general these resemble skill games more than gambling, such assessment may depend on the details of a particular contest.
In order to address such issues, the Act offers the possibility to obtain a binding interpretation from the minister in charge of public finance in which a game may be assessed on whether it should be treated as a gambling game as understood in the Act.10
Gambling and financial markets are regulated by different legislation and should be considered as separate establishments, although there is no explicit distinction in the Act in this regard. While it can be argued that financial products resemble gambling games in some aspects (the results of both depend on factors outside of participants' control), it appears that in practice this issue has not caused controversy.
ii Gambling policy
The current state of gambling regulations is mostly the result of the 'gambling affair' – a political scandal of 2009, where it was revealed that some prominent politicians of the government and the ruling party were cooperating with gambling business owners and tried to amend the laws on gambling in their favour. In response to the affair, the government introduced the Act, which was meant to show that the government is not influenced by lobbying. The Act is therefore very strict, with major areas of the gambling business outlawed.
The government remains opposed to gambling in general, seeing it as a dangerous addiction and a questionable business. It is not outlawed, however, as it is a source of national income. Still, numerous restrictions on gambling are widely considered a significant burden on the development of the market.
iii State control and private enterprise
Until recently, only number games, cash lottery and telebingo were reserved to the state monopoly (in practice, telebingo games are not currently organised). However, from April 2017, the scope of the monopoly has expanded substantially. The state-owned company Totalizator Sportowy sp z o.o. now offers casino-style games online and operates slot machine parlours.11 Both areas are exclusively granted to Totalizator Sportowy. Moreover, in April 2017, Totalizator Sportowy was allowed exclusively to organise multi-jurisdictional lotteries in Poland12 – such games were not present on the Polish market before.
Private entities operate in other areas regulated by the Act, by managing casinos, betting shops, betting websites, most types of lotteries and bingo. There are some quantitative restrictions regarding particular licences; the number of casinos and bingo saloons across Poland is limited.
iv Territorial issues
All laws regarding gambling in Poland apply to its whole territory. Municipalities participate in regulating the market only to a very limited extent, by issuing opinions on placing a casino or a bingo saloon on their territory. A positive opinion of the municipality's council is one of the prerequisites of obtaining a licence.
While the law remains the same for the whole of Poland, the process of its implementation and licencing is decentralised to some extent. While casino licences or betting permits are issued by the minister in charge of public finance (a central authority), several less prominent issues, such as registering slot machines, issuing permits for raffle lotteries and collecting gambling tax, are the responsibility of tax authorities of varying degrees of seniority at the local level.
v Offshore gambling
Offshore gambling is illegal in Poland. The only gambling activities that may be conducted online by private entities are betting and promotional lotteries. Both require obtaining a prior permit. Other forms of online gambling are either restricted to the state company or banned altogether, with no distinction as to whether operations are conducted within Poland or abroad.
It is illegal to participate in unlicensed gambling in Poland. It is also illegal to participate in any gambling held abroad while the player is located in Poland. Both acts are prosecuted as fiscal criminal offences,13 but in practice this mostly concerns prosecuting participants, which is much easier for the authorities.
From 1 July 2017, a new measure is used against unlicensed (mostly offshore) operators. The government enforces a blacklist of websites used for offering unlicensed gambling. As at 29 March 2022, over 22,000 addresses (URLs) have to be blocked by Polish internet service providers, almost doubling the total number of addresses blocked a year before. Payment service providers in Poland are also required to cease providing their services for such blacklisted websites. These measures are often criticised for being too restrictive, but licensed betting operators commend them as they have reportedly observed a significant increase in sales and decrease of the grey zone.
Legal and regulatory framework
i Legislation and jurisprudence
The legal issues applicable to gambling are mostly regulated in the Act. Criminal sanctions for illegal gambling are provided in the Penal Code and the Fiscal Penal Code.
ii The regulator
There is no separate specialised regulatory body designated to govern the gambling sector in Poland. The main responsibilities regarding gambling (such as issuing casino licences or betting permits) are granted to the minister in charge of public finance.14 Some less prominent powers (such as issuing permits for organising promotional lotteries, registering slot machines etc.), as well as enforcement measures are delegated to the National Revenue Administration (an administrative body responsible for issues connected with tax and customs duty) and its officers, such as the directors of revenue administration chambers and heads of tax offices.
iii Remote and land-based gambling
The Act does not distinguish between online and land-based gambling in detail. The Act simply includes provisions that apply specifically to forms of gambling conducted 'through the internet' – a term that is not defined further. Audiotex lotteries, which require a phone call or an SMS message to participate, are also a form of remote gambling, but these may not be conducted online.
Most forms of online gambling in Poland are either prohibited or restricted to state monopoly. The only exceptions are betting and conducting promotional lotteries, which can be held online, but each of them requires a prior permit.
iv Land-based gambling
In general, gambling may only take place in specific locations as indicated in a relevant licence or permit. There are different restrictions regarding each type of venue.
Casinos are venues where the following games may be played: cylindrical games (roulette), dice games, card games and slot machine games.15 Casinos are limited in number. Only one casino can operate in a single location (village or city) of up to 250,000 inhabitants. For cities of more than 250,000 inhabitants, the maximum number of casinos is increased by one per each 250,000 inhabitants (two casinos are available for up to 500,000 inhabitants, three casinos are available for up to 750,000 inhabitants and so on), but there cannot be more than one casino per total population of 650,000 inhabitants in a single province.16 As at March 2022, there were 50 casino licences active in Poland. There are currently seven tenders pending for applicants for a casino licence.17
Cash bingo is only allowed in bingo halls.18 These are also limited in number, similar to casinos, but with the threshold of one bingo hall per 100,000 inhabitants, with a maximum of one per 300,000 in a province.19 In practice, no bingo halls currently operate in Poland.
Betting shops are entitled to offer two forms of betting: totalisator systems and bookmaking. There is no limitation on the number of betting shops in Poland, and as at March 2022, 11 land-based betting permits were in force, although some operators were inactive.
Slot machine gaming is restricted to casinos (privately operated), and slot machine parlours operated by Totalizator Sportowy. There is a limitation on the number of slot machines operating in slot machine parlours: there can be no more than one per each 1,000 of inhabitants in one district.20 These establishments must be located at least 100 metres from other gaming venues, as well as schools, churches, etc. According to the operator's data of November 2021, there were approximately 810 slot machine parlours operating across Poland, but the number is dynamically increasing. In addition, on the Polish market there are still numerous unlicensed, privately owned slot machine parlours that the authorities are trying to close down, with stricter penalties introduced against their operators in 2017.
Venues that sell national lottery and other state-run number games tickets are not strictly regulated in the Act. In practice, they are operated by private entities acting as agents of the state-owned company, usually at newsagents or other similar locations. There are no restrictions on their number.
v Remote gambling
Both betting and promotional lotteries (the only forms of online gambling available for private entities to organise) require obtaining a prior permit to be organised. It is effectively impossible to pursue these operations from abroad, because of the requirement to establish either a branch office or a representative in Poland (for companies incorporated in the European Economic Area (EEA)) or a Polish company (for other entities).21
For betting, all data related to operations is required to be located within the EEA, with remote 24/7 access provided for tax authorities.22 A remote betting permit is separate from a land-based one, therefore operators who wish to offer both forms of betting have to obtain two permits (a basic betting licence and a separate licence for each website they want to use for online betting).
The Act does not distinguish between regulations on land-based and online promotional lotteries. For betting, most provisions apply to its both forms, with some of them applicable only to online or land-based forms because of their nature. Online betting operators are also required to adopt a responsible gaming policy.
The state-owned company Totalizator Sportowy operates Total Casino, the only legal online casino in Poland. Private operators are not allowed to conduct casino-style games online. Totalizator Sportowy also sells lottery tickets online.
vi Ancillary matters
Certain activity related to gambling, while not constituting gambling per se, is also regulated in the Act. In particular, certain restrictions apply to manufacturing or owning slot machines. Their manufacturers are required to notify the tax authorities of their scope of business, and keep records of the machines they produce. Moreover, every slot machine has to be registered with the tax authorities before being deployed. Performing technical inspections for the purpose of registration is restricted to entities authorised by the minister in charge of public finance. Similarly, it is also required to register equipment used for gaming, such as randomising devices.23
Other types of gambling equipment are not directly regulated in the Act. Businesses such as gambling software developers do not need to obtain any specific licences.
Natural persons are required to undergo training in order to perform some specific tasks related to gambling operations. Training is required for persons directly involved in gambling operations (such as croupiers) as well as supervisors of gambling games, such as directors of gambling venues. Some tasks, notably assisting customers in making bets in a betting shop, are exempt from this requirement. Training may be held internally by a gambling operator or an external training facility; it covers gambling regulations and terms and conditions of games, and has to be repeated after three years.24
vii Financial payment mechanisms
Online gambling operators may only conduct payment transactions using specific types of providers, namely:
- domestic banks;
- branches of a foreign bank;
- credit institutions;
- e-money institutions;
- payment institutions; and
- savings and credit unions.
Online betting operators may not accept payments directly in bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies, but some e-money institutions that are permitted to operate on the Polish market offer the ability to buy and sell cryptocurrencies. Thus, it is possible to pay for a bet in Poland using bitcoin, but not directly.
The licensing process
i Application and renewal
Depending on the type of a game, different licences or permits are required. Applications for licences or permits have to be submitted in writing (online filing is not available) to the relevant authority – the minister in charge of public finance or the director of a revenue administration chamber, depending on the type of game. The specific requirements vary for each type of a game, but in general, the application should include:
- the applicant's identification details;
- information on the planned operation, game or lottery, and any drafts of the terms and conditions of the game;
- financial statements, documents proving the legality of financial resources of the applicant, certificates of no tax or social security arrears, etc.; and
- in the case of casino licences, bingo hall permits and betting permits:
- economic and financial study concerning planned investment and expected profitability, and planned business objectives;
- certificate or affidavit confirming that the applicant's operation is compliant with relevant anti-money laundering and counterterrorism financing regulations;
- documents proving the right to use the venue where gambling is planned (such as lease agreements); and
- information on the financial status of the applicant and its shareholders.
After examining the application, an administrative decision is issued, either granting or refusing the licence or permit. A resolution may be expected within six months of the date of filing the application (or two months for promotional lotteries, audiotex lotteries or raffle lotteries). These time restrictions are not binding under the general rules of Polish administrative procedure law, and the authorities may take longer to decide in specific cases. The applicant can appeal against the decision.
Casino licences, bingo hall permits and betting permits are valid for six years and may be extended by another six years. Permits for raffle lotteries, raffle bingo, promotional lotteries, and audiotex lotteries are issued for the period of each game, but no longer than two years.
Licences and permits are granted against a fee that is different for each type of gambling activity. Fees are calculated as specific multiples of a base amount. For each calendar year, the base amount is equal to the average monthly remuneration in the second calendar quarter of the previous year as announced by the President of the Central Statistical Office. For 2022, the base amount is equal to 5,774.13 zlotys. For example, the cost of a casino licence is 320 times the base amount; therefore, a licence costs 1,847,721.60 zlotys. A betting permit is 90 times the base amount if the application covers one website.
Where more than one entity applies for a licence that is limited in number (as with casino licences), the minister organises a public tender.
For some games, such as raffle lotteries with only minor prizes, no licence or permit is required and a mere prior notification to tax authorities is sufficient. The notification has to be submitted at least 30 days prior to the planned date of the game.25
ii Sanctions for non-compliance
In general, non-compliance with the Act may result in administrative liability, fiscal-criminal liability or both. The main offence – pursuing gambling operations without a proper licence, permit or notification – constitutes grounds for imposing a fine depending on the type of game that was conducted, in the amount of up to five times the fee for a relevant licence or permit. It is also a crime with sanctions of up to three years' imprisonment or a criminal fine, or both.26
Other offences include non-compliance with a licence or permit, violating state monopoly, participating in unlicensed gambling or even ownership of a venue where unregistered slot machines are located.27 Administrative fines of up to 250,000 zlotys may also be imposed against internet service providers or payment service providers that fail to comply with obligations concerning website and payment blocking, respectively.
The regulator may also revoke a licence or a permit, in whole or in part, if statutory conditions for such revocation (such as a gross breach of the conditions of a licence or permit) are met.28 The decision of such revocation is enforceable with immediate effect.
Criminal liability for ancillary acts, such as aiding and abetting illegal gambling operations, is also possible under Polish law. Criminal acts may only be committed by natural persons, but the legal entity in the interest of which the act was committed may be required to cover the fiscal-criminal fines, because of auxiliary liability.29 Moreover, an additional fine of up to five million zlotys, or 3 per cent of annual turnover, whichever is lower, may be imposed on this entity in the case of the final conviction of its employee, on the basis of the Act on Criminal Liability of Collective Entities for Punishable Offences.
As there is no separate regulator or enforcement body dedicated to gambling issues in Poland, related wrongdoings are handled by authorities such as the police, public prosecutor service and the National Revenue Administration, depending on the case.
All operators in the gambling sector are of course required to comply with all generally applicable laws. In addition, there are specific anti-money laundering measures imposed on gambling operators. For example, casinos are required to establish the identity of their guests and to provide such information upon request of the authorities.30 Moreover, in most cases, the companies that apply for gambling licences are required to prove their compliance with anti-money laundering laws as part of the licensing procedure.
As of 1 July 2017, internet service providers (ISPs) and payment service providers (PSPs) are required to comply with website and payment blocking, respectively, of online providers deemed illegal by the minister in charge of public finance. After URLs of such providers are recorded into an online register, ISPs have 24 hours to redirect customers wishing to access these URLs to a government website about illegal gambling. The PSPs are required to cease providing their services with respect to such blocked URLs.
Gambling games, with the exception of promotional lotteries, are subject to a gambling tax.31 Gambling tax is also applicable to games held by the state monopoly. Different tax rates are used for different games, ranging from 2.5 per cent (for betting on sports competitions by animals) to 50 per cent (for most casino games and slot machines). The taxation base also varies between games, but in most cases the tax is calculated against turnover from a game. This is often criticised as one of the main reasons that Polish online betting operators are unable to compete with offshore entities, as currently the tax (12 per cent of turnover) significantly reduces winnings.
Gambling tax is separate from income tax (including corporation income tax). Income tax is also applicable to gambling operators – with the exception of income from organising raffle lotteries and raffle bingo, which is exempt from income tax as it may only be used for charitable purposes. Games subject to gambling tax are exempt from VAT.
Gambling tax does not apply to participants, with the exception of winnings from poker tournaments (in this case, the 25 per cent tax is deducted from winnings by the tournament organiser). Winnings in number games, cash lotteries, telebingo, betting, promotional lotteries, udiotext lotteries, and raffle lotteries are subject to participants' income tax of 10 per cent if they exceed 2,280 zlotys, while winnings in slot machines, card games, dice, roulette, and bingo are exempt from tax.
Advertising and marketing
In general, public advertising of most gambling games is restricted in Poland.32 The definition of advertising is very broad, as it even covers public displays of symbols that resemble gambling games,33 such as a roulette wheel. In addition, the public promotion of gambling games, understood as making public presentations of games, handing over chips or gambling tickets, etc., is also prohibited. These restrictions apply to all casino games, card games and slot machines. On the other hand, number games and lotteries (both operated by state operators and private operators) as well as bingo may be freely advertised.
The general prohibition of advertising and promotion of gambling does not apply when the advertising or promotion is held inside gambling premises or on licensed betting websites.
As a result of an amendment introduced to the Act in 2017, advertising betting is now allowed, although only to a limited extent. Only licensed entities are allowed to advertise. Offshore operators are prohibited from advertising in Poland.34
The contents and placing of betting advertisements are heavily regulated. For example, advertisements may not invoke associations between betting and personal success, nor may they encourage paying higher stakes as means of increasing one's chances to win. Advertising of betting is not permitted on TV and radio, or in cinemas and theatres, between 6am and 10pm, save for advertisements that are broadcast during transmissions of events sponsored by betting operators (such as football matches). Advertisements are allowed in newspapers and magazines, but not on their covers. Out-of-home advertising of betting is only permitted during mass events and sports events sponsored by betting operators.
In addition to regular advertising, betting operators may also exercise 'informing about sponsorship', by displaying their names or other forms of identification (such as logos) in messages in which they inform the reader that they sponsor specific persons or entities (such as sports teams). 'Informing about sponsorship' may not include other promotional communication, such as slogans.
Advertising gambling outside of its permitted scope constitutes a fiscal crime, punishable by a fine of up to 720 day-fine units.35 Deriving profits from such advertising is also prohibited. Wrongful advertising may also lead to a revocation of a gambling licence.
The year in review
The covid-19 pandemic still had an impact on the economy, including the Polish gambling sector. Data provided by the Ministry of Finance shows that while the land-based betting market grew only at a rate of 6 per cent in 2021, the growth of the online betting market amounted to 34 per cent. This shows that players in Poland are increasingly involved in the online market. As a result of players moving online, the share of online betting sales in the entire betting market in Poland increased from 80 per cent in 2019 to 85 per cent in 2020 and was already at 87 per cent after three quarters of 2021.36
Last year saw the two largest private betting operators – STS and Fortuna – generally maintaining their market share. STS also became the second gambling company in Polish history to get listed on the Warsaw stock exchange. The trend of new entrants to the Polish online betting market continued in 2021 with most notably Betway entering the Polish market.
In 2021, we also witnessed the intensification of efforts of the Polish government to fight unlicensed gambling operators. To this end, amendments of the Gambling Act have been introduced with effect as of 1 June 2021 to extend the scope of domain blocking, including to those sites used to advertise and promote gambling in contravention of the Gambling Act.37 Also, the criterion that an unlicensed website needs to be addressed to the audience in Poland was replaced with a mere requirement that the website is accessible to persons domiciled in Poland. Importantly, under the new regulations the procedural rules for blacklisting were simplified, and it might now be a lower-level official of the National Fiscal Administration who decides on entry of a domain to the register of blocked domains.38 Previously it was solely an official from the Ministry of Finance. This is intended to make it easier and quicker to track down and block new domains in order to more effectively combat the offshore market. The new regulations are also aimed at fighting against entities that have affiliate agreements in place and run promotions for offshore operators and indirectly generate traffic to these entities' sites.
The amendments also introduced some new requirements for poker tournament organisers. At the end of the tournament, they must provide the director of the tax administration with detailed information about the persons who have won in the tournament, including their first and last names, the amount of the entry fee for participation in the tournament and information about the amount of winnings, as well as the settlement of gaming tax.39
At the same time, the amendments have introduced certain facilitations for operators of gaming halls (i.e., slot machine saloons). A provision stating that a licensed gaming hall may not be set up in a place where illegal organisation of gaming on slot machines has been detected over the past five years has been repealed. This creates an opportunity to legally open premises in attractive locations where illegal operators previously operated. The decision on the location of a gaming hall will be made by the director of the fiscal administration chamber. There has also been a reduction in the time required to store audiovisual signals from gaming halls from a period of three years to 12 months, counting from the end of the calendar month in which they were made.40 In addition, a specification has been added regarding the required distance between the gaming halls and pedagogical and educational establishments.
A further important amendment to the Gambling Act entered into force on 31 October 2021. with the aim of implementing the provisions of Directive 2015/849 on the prevention of the use of the financial system for the purpose of money laundering or terrorist financing in Poland. It is currently an obligation for the ultimate beneficial owners of gambling companies to meet the requirement of being of irreproachable standing, in particular not having any a criminal record.
Despite the outbreak of war in Ukraine, the economists remain positive about the potential of further growth of the gambling market in Poland. Poland's largest gambling company, STS, announced that last year the value of bets placed by its customers amounted to nearly 4.5 billion zlotys, while in 2020 it was almost 3.6 billion zlotys. Year-on-year growth was 25 per cent.41
From a legal perspective, there are no ready-made amendments to the Gambling Act on the horizon. However, it is possible that later this year we will face an amendment of the Polish Fiscal Penal Code, which will have an impact on the gambling industry. The draft amendment provides criminalisation of new acts in the form of making available means, property or premises for the purpose of organising gambling games or obstructing official activities of persons authorised to control equipment and conduct gambling games.42 The draft should be submitted to the parliament in the second half of the year. Furthermore, gambling companies are actively lobbying to change the tax base for gambling in Poland. In response to a parliamentary question, the Ministry of Finance acknowledged that it is analysing a potential change in the tax base from the current total sum of stakes paid to the difference between stakes paid and winnings paid.43 This possible change would be groundbreaking because the taxable base would be the operator's gross gaming revenue (GGR). No statements as to the applicable tax rate have been made yet, however. The analyses conducted by the Ministry of Finance are also not leading to any specific legislative changes yet, but the taxation of gambling in Poland remains a hot topic.
1 Piotr Dynowski is a partner and Andrzej Stelmachowski is an associate at Bird & Bird Szepietowski i wspólnicy spk.
2 Article 1(2) of the Act.
3 For definitions of all games, see Article 2 of the Act.
4 Article 2(1) of the Act.
5 Article 2(1)(4) of the Act.
6 Article 2(3) of the Act.
7 Article 2(5) of the Act.
8 This should not be considered an official statement, as the Polish regulator does not issue any universally binding guidelines.
9 Judgment of the Supreme Administrative Court of 25 August 2020, case No. II GSK 601/20.
10 Articles 2(6)–2(7b) of the Act.
11 Article 5(1b)–5(1c) of the Act.
12 Article 5(1a) of the Act.
13 Article 107 of the Fiscal Penal Code.
14 In Polish law, acts do not grant responsibilities to specific ministers (such as the Minister of Finance). Instead, every act refers to specific portfolios of government (such as public finance), and these portfolios can be assigned to specific ministers by the Prime Minister.
15 Article 6(1) of the Act.
16 Article 15(1) of the Act.
18 Article 6(2) of the Act.
19 Article 15(2) of the Act.
20 Article 15(1a) of the Act.
21 Articles 6(5) and 7a(1) of the Act.
22 Article 15d of the Act.
23 Articles 23–23f of the Act.
24 Chapter 3 of the Act.
25 For details on licensing requirements and procedure, see Chapter 5 of the Act.
26 The criminal fine is calculated by multiplying a 'day-fine unit' (calculated by the court by taking into account the earnings and other personal circumstances of the offender) by the number of such units as indicated by the court, taking into account the severity of the crime. A fine for conducting unlicensed gambling operations may be between 10 and 720 units, with one unit set between approximately 93 zlotys and 1,120,000 zlotys.
27 Article 89 of the Act.
28 Article 59 of the Act.
29 Article 24 of the Fiscal Penal Code.
30 Article 15a of the Act.
31 Chapter 7 of the Act.
32 Articles 29 and 29b of the Act.
33 Article 29(9) of the Act.
34 While this is not expressly stated in the Act for anything other than betting, it can be argued that in fact any form of unlicensed gambling may not be advertised in Poland, as (1) advertising of many forms of gambling is prohibited regardless of whether it is licensed; and (2) especially for offshore gambling, it may be argued that such advertising would encourage committing a crime.
35 Article 110a of the Fiscal Penal Code. See footnote 25, above.
37 Article 15f of the Act.
38 Article 15f letter b) of the Act.
39 Article 6a of the Act.
40 Article 15b point 3 of the Act.