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A Deeper Look Into the Polish Gambling Market

According to the most recent data, Poland has the potential to become one of the most important gaming markets in Europe. While gambling is mostly restricted to land-based casinos in Poland, it is presently the most intriguing and lucrative Eastern European market.

The Polish gambling industry reached a valuation of around €5 billion in 2020 according to KasynoHEX Poland. In comparison, the Croatian gaming sector is only valued at roughly €350 million, while the far larger Russian market only brought in around €600 million. So what is it exactly that sets Poland apart from other countries in terms of gambling, how legal is gambling and how big is the gambling industry?

All of these questions are answered by Jacek Michałski, an expert on the gambling market in Poland.

The Legality of Gambling in Poland

In Poland, gambling is legal although it has to be said that the country has some very restrictive rules compared to most other EU member states. The Polish Gambling Act, which took effect in April 2017 imposes a lot of strict regulations on land-based and online Polish operators. While games like roulette, blackjack, and zdrapki online may be popular in Poland, there are a lot of limits on where and how people can play.

Despite the fact that the Polish gaming legislation is one of the most restrictive in Europe, the industry has seen remarkable development since the revisions to the Gambling Act in 2017. To put things in perspective, the industry's revenue was expected to be €0.11 billion in 2015, but it has since increased dramatically. In 2018, the market was valued at €1.82 billion, and by 2020, it was worth €5 billion.

Sportsbooks and casinos operating in Poland need to apply for a license from the Ministry of Finance. While 14 operators have since obtained online sportsbook licenses in the market, several high-profile brands, including the likes of Unibet, Bet365, and William Hill, have either departed from the market or had their websites banned as a result of the new legislation. As such, the online casino Poland market is effectively controlled entirely by the state.

State-Owned Gambling

As part of the 2017 Gambling Act amendment, state-owned operator Totalizator Sportowy was given a monopoly for online casinos and promotional lotteries. On top of this, the law was extended to apply the 12% turnover tax rate to all online operators as well as land-based bookies.

These restrictions and the fact that Totalizator Sportowy has a monopoly on the market means that Polish players don’t have as many options for gambling as in some other countries. The heavy restrictions have meant that big gambling brands have largely steered clear of the Polish market and most popular sites don’t accept Polish players as a result. Still, there are lots of options available in the form of off-shore gambling sites, many of which still accept Polish players despite being unlicensed in the country.

Online Casinos in Poland

Although licenced operators can offer online sports betting, online casinos are unable to legally operate in Poland outside of the state-owned sites. This means that Polish gamblers don’t have a great deal of choice in terms of legal options. However, there are plenty of unlicensed sites that still accept Polish players. Despite the best efforts of the Ministry of Finance, many off-shore sites are still offering casino gaming to Polish players.

The Ministry of Finance technically has no legal authority over these unlicensed sites as they’re not operating within the country. In an attempt to minimize the number of Polish players signing up and playing at unlicensed sites, the government has opted to release a blacklist of offshore gambling domains. At the time of writing, that blacklist contains more than seven thousand different sites. However, for the most part, it doesn’t seem to be doing much good.

Polish players are happy to risk potential legal issues by signing up and playing at these sites, as they get much better variety, bonuses, and options than those they’d find at state-owned sites. Furthermore, so-called 'clone domains,' in which operators use slightly modified URLs to avoid having their sites taken down, have reduced the blacklist's effectiveness.

There’s no doubt that the Polish gambling market is growing, but state regulators have a battle on their hands to ensure that players are protected. At the moment, attempts to blacklist unlicensed sites have largely been ineffective, and it seems unlikely that state-owned sites can compete with the free market.

This article does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the editors or the management of EconoTimes

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