Polish deputy Prime Minister proposes legalizing online poker, home games

poland-online-poker-legalizationPoland may legalize online poker if the country’s deputy prime minister has his way.

On Sunday, Jarosław Gowin (pictured), Poland’s deputy PM and Minister of Science and Higher Education, held a press conference to offer details on how his Poland Together party would like to amend the country’s 2009 Gambling Act.

The ruling Law and Justice party has yet to deliver its overdue draft of a new gambling bill and Gowin stressed that his proposals were his own, not the government’s. However, Gowin expressed hope that his plans would gain broad support in the Polish parliament.

Gowin is proposing that the current 12% tax on sports betting turnover be replaced by a 20% tax on betting revenue, and 10% of the government’s tax take should be shared with the Polish Olympic Committee and problem gambling initiatives.

Gowin also wants to allow Polish-licensed operators to offer “card games such as poker” over the internet and also to authorize private poker games in people’s homes. At present, poker is only permissible in licensed casinos.

Gowin’s poker plans run contrary to a statement this January by the Ministry of Finance, which claimed that there would be no further expansion of gambling options. But Gowin attempted to distinguish poker and sports betting as less harmful than “hard gambling” products like slots and “casino games.”

Gowin also wants the government to grant itself new powers to combat international operators who continue to serve Polish punters without a local license. Such tools would include the standard (and generally impotent) domain-blocking at the ISP level, as well as the slightly more effective payment-blocking by financial institutions.

Gowin claimed that the country’s “extremely restrictive” gambling laws had surrendered 95% of the online market to so-called ‘grey’ operators. Gowan believes it’s time for “normality and common sense” to prevail and for the government to collect the “hundreds of millions” it was foregoing annually in lost tax revenue.

Appearing alongside Gowin at Sunday’s presser was Polish Football Association president Zbigniew Boniek, who expressed support for Gowin’s plans to open up advertising and sponsorship opportunities for Polish-licensed betting operators with local sports teams. Gowin estimated Polish sport could reap an annual PLN 100m (US $26m) from such deals.