April 1 marked the imposition of the amended Polish Gambling Act, which explicitly bars online gambling operators not holding a local license. The shift has led to a flurry of international online gambling operators exiting the market in recent weeks, including big names like Betfair, Bet365 and Pinnacle.
However, not every operator appears willing to give up on Poland just yet. William Hill told its affiliates that, while it was exiting the market on April 1, it wasn’t ruling out the possibility of a return at some future date. Now Bwin has told its Polish customers that it’s working on a solution to restore their ability to wager with the company.
The message on Bwin’s Polish-facing site informed its customers that Bwin had applied for a local license and was in “constant contact with the Polish authorities” regarding the process. Bwin has temporarily disabled its Polish punters’ ability to wager with the site in order to remain in compliance with the new regime, but expressed confidence that it would be able to restore full functionality “shortly.”
The amended Act restricts online casino and poker operations to the state-run Totlizator Sportowy service, while online sportsbooks are subject to the country’s loathed 12% tax on betting turnover. The tax has been deemed unworkable by the Remote Gambling Association as well as some Polish cabinet ministers.
To date, Poland’s tax-heavy regime has convinced only a handful of Central European operators – many of whom also have a land-based betting presence in Poland – that local licensing is worth the bother. GVC appears to be betting that the Polish government was sincere when it promised to address the much-criticized turnover tax via standalone legislation at some future date.
Meanwhile, the Polish government is pressing ahead with plans to restrict access to the market by unauthorized operators. The amended Act calls for domain- and payment-blocking measures to be in force by July 1, and Poland’s Ministry of Finance has already set up an official register of sites (viewable here) to list the domains the government deems to be serving the market without permission.