Poland reverses course, restricts online casino to state lottery monopoly

polish-online-slots-monopolyPoland’s government has reversed course by deciding to restrict its online casino market to a single operator.

On Tuesday, the Polish Council of Ministers approved amendments to the Polish Gambling Act. While Poland previously permitted only online sports betting, it has now authorized casino and poker verticals, although online casino will be restricted to state-owned lottery operator Totalizator Sportowy.

In May, the Ministry of Finance hinted that all Polish-licensed online betting operators would be permitted to add slots to their offering. Instead, the approved amendments grant Totalizator Sportowy control over all “games of chance on the internet.”

The government says this restriction is necessary because slots are “one of the most addictive forms of gambling.” The state monopoly will also be required to implement new responsible gambling policies and al online operators have been forbidden from offering credit to their customers.

Online poker licenses will apparently be available to international operators, and private groups will be permitted to organize land-based poker tournaments, which are currently only allowed inside casinos.

To bolster the business of the state’s licensed online operators, the state plans to maintain a register of unauthorized gambling sites and require internet service providers and banks to block domains and payments, respectively.

The government estimates that the changes will generate PLN 637m (US $160m) for the state in its first year of adoption, rising to PLN 1.48b and PLN 2.32 in years two and three, respectively.

While previous estimates have claimed that unauthorized operators control over 90% of Poland’s PLN 5b online market, the government hopes to control 40% of the market in the first year under the new regime, rising to 60% in year two and 80% after that.

Sadly, Poland has opted not to swap its reviled 12% tax on sports betting turnover for a 20% tax on betting revenue, as some cabinet ministers had suggested. As a result, it’s highly unlikely that any international operator currently serving the Polish market without a local license will be motivated to apply for such a license.

The revised Gambling Act must now be vetted by the European Commission after which it will be returned to the Polish parliament for final approval. Assuming all that transpires according to plan, the new rules will take effect Jan. 1, 2017.

It’s been a good week for Totalizator Sportowy, having just signed a title sponsorship with Polish football’s premier league Ekstraklasa. The league will now be known as the Lotto Ekstraklasa and Lotto logos will appear on all league branding and each club’s shirts. The deal, which takes effect immediately, is reportedly worth around PLN 10m ($2.5m).