Gaming in Poland: overview

Legislative framework of gambling regulation

Legislative framework of gambling regulation

◊ Status: Law stated as at 01-Nov-2016 | Jurisdiction: Poland

 

Overview

images 1. What legislation applies to gambling?

Gambling (both land-based and online) in Poland is regulated, with the exception of some provisions on criminal liability and supervision powers of the regulator, by the Gambling Law of 19 November 2009 (as amended) (Ustawa o grach hazardowych) (Gambling Law). The Gambling Law imposes strict rules on gambling and sets harsh requirements for gambling operators, with severe penalties for their violation. The Polish regulations on gambling are considered to be among the most restrictive in Europe.

The current state of regulation is in part due to the circumstances in which the Gambling Law was passed. The Gambling Law was the government’s response to the “gambling affair” (afera hazardowa), a political scandal regarding lobbying for amendments to the earlier Act on Games and Betting, which regulated the gambling industry prior to Gambling Law’s entry into force. The aim of the new law was to restrict gambling (especially slot machines, which were the basis of the gambling affair) to show that the government is not influenced by lobbying. The Gambling Law passed through parliament very quickly, in just two days, and as a result it included numerous inconsistencies and errors, making it difficult to interpret in practice. Some commentators have also raised concerns that its provisions do not comply with EU law. It was also seen as controversial as to whether the Gambling Law includes “technical regulations”, which under EU law, should have been notified to the European Commission before the law was passed.

Although the Gambling Law has been amended several times to fix obvious errors, the current Polish government has recently announced plans to introduce some material changes. This time however, the draft amendments have been sent to the European Commission as part of the notification process.

The aim of Gambling Law is to comprehensively govern all aspects of the gambling sector. In particular, it provides for:

  • Specific types of regulated gambling and betting.

  • How specific types of gambling products can be offered and the related limitations for offering gambling products.

  • The requirements and procedures for obtaining gambling licences and permits for operators and persons directly conducting actions with regards to gambling (for example, croupiers and so on).

  • The government fees applicable to gambling operators.

  • Gambling tax rates.

  • Administrative fines for violating the law.

In addition to administrative fines, there are also criminal sanctions for violations in connection with gambling. However, these are regulated outside the Gambling Law in the Penal Code (Kodeks karny) and the Fiscal Penal Code (Kodeks karny skarbowy).

The Gambling Law applies to both land-based and online gambling. Online gambling operators are also bound by other more general provisions of law such as the Act of 18 July 2002 on Providing Services through Electronic Means (E-Commerce Act) (Ustawa o świadczeniu usług drogą elektroniczną), which regulates all services provided online.

Definitions of gambling

2. What is the legal definition of gambling in your jurisdiction and what falls within this definition?

General definition

The Gambling Law applies to “gambling games” (gry hazardowe), which consist of three main categories:

  • Games of chance (gry losowe). This is an umbrella term for “games 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”. In practice, the prevailing view of the courts is to interpret this definition restrictively: whenever an element of chance occurs in a game, even to a minor extent, the game is a game of chance. In addition to the general definition, the Gambling Law also lists the specific forms of gambling games which are considered games of chance. These include:

    • number games;

    • cylindrical games (roulette and so on);

    • card games (black jack, poker and baccarat);

    • dice games;

    • cash bingo;

    • raffle bingo;

    • telebingo;

    • cash lotteries;

    • raffle lotteries;

    • promotional lotteries; and

    • audiotele lotteries.

  • Betting (zakłady wzajemne). These are games played for cash or in-kind prizes, and consist of two subtypes:

    • totalisator systems; and

    • bookmaking.

  • Slot machine games (gry na automatach). See Question 4, Slot and other machine gaming.

Games where there is no element of chance (that is, games solely based on the participants’ skill or knowledge) are not covered by the Gambling Law. However, in many cases, it can be hard to tell whether a particular activity constitutes a game of chance. This area is interpreted strictly by the authorities.

The Minister of Finance is authorised to issue on request decisions whether a particular game should be treated as a gambling game regulated by the Gambling Law. However, the decision is binding in individual cases only and the Minister does not issue universally-binding interpretations of the Gambling Law.

Online gambling

No specific definition for online gambling is provided in the Gambling Law. The Gambling Law simply includes provisions that apply only to “gambling via the internet network” or “betting via the internet network”, but does not explain such terms further.

Online betting is the only form of online gambling currently allowed in Poland.

Land-based gambling

Most of the Gambling Law’s regulations concern land-based gambling. However, the Gambling Law does not distinguish gambling for being land-based as a specific criterion. Instead, some provisions apply exclusively to online gambling and betting, and are not applicable to land-based operations.

Regulatory authorities

3. What are the regulatory or governmental bodies that are responsible for supervising gambling?

General supervisory authority for gambling rests with the minister competent for public finance (currently this area of government is designated to the Minister of Finance). The minister is responsible for both:

  • Issuing decisions classifying certain products as gambling products.

  • Issuing licenses to casinos, bingo saloons and betting permits.

The day-to-day supervision of the gambling market in Poland as well as enforcement is carried out by the Customs. The Customs are also authorised to issue permits for different types of lotteries depending on their territorial scope.

For details see box, The regulatory authorities.

Gambling products

4. What gambling products have been specifically identified by legislation, and what different requirements have been established for each?

Poker

The Gambling Law classifies poker as one of the games of chance. However, the term “poker” and the rules of the game itself are not further defined. Case law also does not use a specific definition (generally all card games which resemble poker according to their rules are treated as poker).

Playing poker is highly regulated if it includes cash or in-kind prizes (otherwise Gambling Law does not apply). The only legal form of poker allowed in Poland is a poker tournament organised on the premises of a casino with at least ten participants. Each tournament requires obtaining a separate permit, and the terms of each tournament must be approved in advance by the Minister of Finance.

Betting

Bookmaking is a form of betting related to the results of sports or other events. The Gambling Law defines bookmaking as “betting for cash or in-kind prizes consisting of guessing the occurrence of various events, where the participants pay stakes and the value of prizes depends on the ratio of the stake and prize as agreed between the entity accepting the bet and the stake payer”. It is prohibited to bet on the results of number games. Bookmaking may be conducted in both land-based and online form. A permit is required before operators can commence operations (see Question 5).

Sports betting

Gambling Law allows for two forms of sports betting:

  • Bookmaking. See above, Betting.

  • Totalisator systems. This is “betting for cash or in-kind prizes consisting of guessing the results of sports competitions among humans or animals, where participants pay stakes and the value of the prize depends on the total of stakes paid”.

Both forms of sports betting fall within the broader category of betting (see above, Betting).

Casino games

The following games may only be offered inside casinos and therefore a casino license is required to organise them:

  • Cylindrical games. This a type of game 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”. Cylindrical games include roulette (among others).

  • Card games. These include black jack, poker and baccarat.

  • Dice games. These are not defined further by the Gambling Law.

  • Slot machine games. See below, Slot and other machine gaming.

Slot and other machine gaming

Under Gambling Law, slot machine games are defined as “games played with the use of mechanical, electromechanical or electronic devices, computers included, for cash or in-kind prizes, where the game features an element of chance”. As the definition is broad, many types of electronic games can be treated as slot machine games under the Gambling Law if they offer cash or in-kind prizes. An “in-kind prize” in relation to slot machine games is also understood to cover winning either:

  • Additional play time.

  • The ability to start a new game without having to pay a new game fee.

Under the Gambling Law, slot machine games are also “games played with the use of mechanical, electromechanical or electronic devices, computers included, organised for commercial purposes, even if there is no possibility to win any cash and/or in-kind prizes, but the game features an element of chance”.

Slot machine games are only permitted inside casinos.

Terminal-based gaming

There is no such separate category of games defined under Gambling Law. In most cases the various types of gaming terminals (provided they feature games of chance and cash/in-kind prizes) will fall within the category of slot machine games (see above, Slot and other machine gaming).

Bingo

The Gambling Law defines three forms of bingo:

  • Telebingo. This is a game “where participation occurs by purchasing a game ticket, which includes random sets of numbers or signs from a predefined set of numbers or signs, where the game is conducted nationwide and the draw is broadcasted on television and the entity organising the game offers cash or in-kind prizes”.

  • Cash bingo. This is a game “where participation occurs by purchasing random sets of numbers from a predefined set of numbers, where the entity organising the game offers only cash prizes which value depends on the total of the stakes paid”.

  • Raffle bingo. This is a game “where participation occurs by purchasing random sets of numbers from a predefined set of numbers, where the entity organising the game offers only in-kind prizes”.

Each form of bingo is regulated in a different manner, for example:

  • Telebingo is subject to state monopoly and cannot be organised by private entities. As of 2015, no such games have been held in Poland.

  • Cash bingo can only be held in bingo game saloons, which require a bingo game saloon permit. According to the government, no such saloons operated in Poland in 2015 (further current data is not yet available).

  • Organising a raffle bingo game requires obtaining a prior permit that will be valid for one specific game only. Any natural or legal person can organise a raffle bingo game (a bingo game saloon permit is not required in this case). A mere notification that the game is due to be held (which should be made at least 30 days prior to the planned date of the game) is required for raffle bingo games with:

    • the total prize value up to 100% of the base amount (about PLN4,200 for 2016); or

    • the total prize value up to 15 times the base amount (about PLN63,750 for 2016), if organised by public benefit organisation.

A permit for a raffle bingo game is not always required, but must only be organised for charitable intentions. The Gambling Law states that all profits should be used for “socially beneficial purposes”. A permit is always required if the value of prizes exceed the sums specified above.

In practice, games of bingo (and all their variants) are almost non-existent in Poland.

Lottery

Gambling Law defines four types of lotteries:

  • Cash lotteries. These are games “where participation occurs by purchasing a coupon or other game ticket and the entity organising the lottery offers only cash prizes”

  • Raffle lotteries. These are games “where participation occurs by purchasing a coupon or other game ticket and the entity organising the lottery offers only in-kind prizes”

  • Promotional lotteries. These are games “where participation in a free lottery occurs by purchasing a product, a service or other game ticket and the entity organising the lottery offers cash or in-kind prizes”

  • Audiotele lotteries. There are games “where participation occurs by either a paid phone call or sending short text messages (SMS) using a public telecommunications network, and the entity organising the lottery offers cash or in-kind prizes”.

Each type of lottery is regulated in a different manner, for example:

  • Cash lotteries can only be organised by the state (as there is a state monopoly).

  • Raffle lotteries can be organised by anyone with a prior permit (in the same way as raffle bingo). For details of permit costs and exemptions for public benefit organisations, see above, Bingo.

  • Organising promotional lotteries and audiotele lotteries requires a prior permit.

Number games

The Gambling Law specifically addresses number games. These are defined as “games where the prize is won by choosing correct numbers, signs or other distinguishing marks and the value of the prizes depends on the total of stakes paid”, and the game of “keno”, where “the prize is won by choosing correct numbers and the value of the prizes is the product of the stake paid and the multiplier specified for specific levels of prizes”.

The state has an exclusive monopoly over all number games.

Land-based gambling

Regulation/licensing

5. What is the licensing regime (if any) for land-based gambling?

Available licences

Different licences or permits are required depending on the type of game, for example a:

  • Casino licence is required for casino games.

  • Bingo game saloon permit is required for cash bingo.

  • Betting operator permit is required for providing betting operations.

The legal requirements for these licences/permits are similar, although the casino licence is the hardest to obtain.

Casinos and bingo saloons are limited in number. Under the Gambling Law, not more than one casino can operate in a single location (village or city) up to 250,000 inhabitants. For each next 250,000 inhabitants, the maximum number of permitted casinos is increased by one (for example, 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 (województwo).

Casinos can be also run aboard sea passenger ships and passenger ferries under the Polish banner, provided these games commence no earlier than 30 minutes after leaving the departure port and end no later than 30 minutes prior to arrival at the destination port.

The rules for numbers are similar for bingo saloons, but the limit is one saloon per 100,000 inhabitants, and not more than one saloon per 300,000 in one province.

Where more than one entity applies for a licence or permit with quantitative restrictions, the Minister of Finance should organise a public tender procedure.

There are no such restrictions as to number of allowed bet-making points.

Each casino licence is valid for one specific casino only. This rule also applies to bingo saloon permits. Similarly, one permit is valid for a specific number of bet-making points.

Many games (such as poker tournament, raffle bingo, raffle lottery, promotional lottery and/or audiotele lottery) require single-time permits issued separately for each instance of the game. Raffle bingo, raffle lottery, promotional lottery and/or audiotele lotteries can be organised locally or for the territory of the whole country.

Each licence or permit also requires the approval of the terms and conditions of the gambling product from Minister of Finance or head of the competent Customs Chamber, depending on the geographic scope of the intended gambling product.

For some games, no licence or permit is required and a mere prior notification is sufficient.

A notification to the competent Head of the Customs Office must be made at least 30 days prior to the planned date of the game for:

  • Raffle bingo, if the total value of prizes does not exceed:

    • 100% of the base amount (about PLN4,200 for 2016); or

    • 15 times the base amount (about PLN63,750 for 2016), if held by public benefit organisation.

  • Raffle lotteries, if the total value of prizes does not exceed:

    • 100% of the base amount (about PLN4,200); or

    • 15 times the base amount (about PLN63,750), if held by public benefit organisation.

Eligibility

Number games, cash lotteries and telebingo are subject to state monopoly and can therefore only be offered by a state-owned operator.

Generally, only joint-stock and limited liability companies with their registered offices in Poland can operate casinos, bingo saloons or betting points. Shares or stock in such companies can only be owned by natural persons that are citizens of an EU/EEA member state or entities that have their registered office in an EU/EEA member state. Casinos, bingo saloons or betting points can also be operated by joint-stock or limited liability companies (or similar) registered in another EU/EEA member state, under condition that they will appoint a representative (a natural person or an entity domiciled or registered in Poland) or set up their branch office in Poland. A representative in Poland must be appointed on the basis of a written agreement with the operator in question.

A supervisory board is required for the casinos’, bingo saloons’ and betting operating companies. No privileged shares/stocks are permitted and only registered shares are allowed.

A minimum share capital requirement exists for casinos, bingo saloons and betting operators (PLN4 million for casinos, PLN2 million for bingo saloons and betting operators).

The officers of such companies (that is, the members of the casino company’s managing board, supervisory board or revision committee) must hold Polish citizenship or that of another EU/EEA member state.

A shareholder holding more than 10% of the share capital, member of the managing board, supervisory board or revision committee cannot hold more than 10% of the share capital or hold the position as officer of the casino company if:

  • There are justified concerns in relation to the person in the context of state security, public order or state’s economic interests’ security.

  • The person has been convicted of an intentional crime or intentional fiscal crime in any EU member state.

  • The person has criminal proceedings pending against him or her in the context of money laundering or the financing of terrorism.

A person in question may be requested to provide an official certification to prove that any of the above is not applicable.

Generally, audiotele lotteries can be only organised by either:

  • Joint stock or limited liability companies with registered offices in Poland.

  • Joint stock or limited liability companies (or similar) registered in another EU/EEA member state, provided they will appoint a representative (a natural person or an entity domiciled or registered in Poland) or set up their branch office in Poland.

Entities wishing to apply for a licence or permit are required to prove the legality of their capital, and that they are not in any arrears with any tax and social security payments. For casinos, bingo saloons, betting and audiotele lottery operators, there is also a requirement to prove compliance with the laws regarding accounting, money laundering and the financing of terrorism.

Promotional lotteries, raffle lotteries and raffle bingo can be organised by any natural person, legal person, or an entity without legal personality without any particular limitations. Persons managing or representing an entity organising raffle lottery or raffle bingo must not have been convicted of an intentional crime or intentional fiscal crime in any EU member state.

Application procedure

Casino licences and permits for bingo saloons, betting and poker tournaments are issued by the Minister of Finance. Permits for organising raffle lotteries, audiotele lotteries, raffle bingo or promotional lotteries are issued by director of competent Customs Chamber or head of competent Customs Office, depending on their geographic scope.

The procedure for all types of gambling licences, permits and notifications consists of submitting an application and the required documents to the relevant authority (see box, The Regulatory Authorities).

Different licences and permits have different requirements. However, generally the application should include:

  • The applicant’s details.

  • Details (starting date or duration, place and so on) of the planned operation, game or lottery.

  • Certificates or declarations of no tax or social security arrears.

  • Documents proving the legality of financial resources of the applicant.

  • Economic and financial study concerning planned investment and expected profitability (in case of casino licences and bingo saloon and betting permits).

  • Certificate or affidavit confirming that the applicant’s operation is compliant with relevant anti-money laundering and financing of terrorism regulations (in the case of casino licences and bingo saloon and betting permits).

  • Financial statement of the applicant for the previous turnover year.

  • Draft(s) of terms and conditions of the game.

In general, the formal requirements for a casino licence, bingo saloon permit or betting operator permit are much higher than those for one-time lotteries/games. The former must also provide (among other things):

  • Documents proving the right to use the venue where gambling is planned (such as lease agreements).

  • Information regarding the financial status of the applicant and its shareholders.

  • The planned business objectives.

After the application is submitted to the relevant authority, it is examined and a decision will be issued, which either grants or refuses the licence or permit. The applicant can appeal against the decision. The decision concerning licences or permits should take place within six months of the date of filing the application (with the exception of decisions concerning applications for promotional lotteries, audiotele lotteries or raffle lotteries, which should take place within two months from the date of filing application). However, under the general rules of Polish administrative procedure law, these time restrictions are not binding and the authorities may take longer to decide in specific cases.

A fee must be paid to obtain a licence or a permit (see below, Duration of licence and cost: Fees). For some gambling products, operators wishing to obtain a licence or permit must provide a guarantee. For casinos, bingo saloons and betting operators, this can take the form of either a bank deposit or a bank/insurance guarantee for a sum up to PLN1.2 million (in case of application for a casino licence). The security is intended to cover potential unpaid gambling tax and/or players’ claims. Organisers of promotional lotteries, audiotele lotteries, raffle lotteries and raffle bingo must have a guarantee for the payment of prizes up to the total value of the prizes.

In addition to the requirement to obtain a licence or permit, gambling operators must report to the head of the Customs Office that their gambling operations have commenced. Moreover, within 30 days of the end of a promotional or audiotele lottery, the organisers must also report to the Customs Office what prizes were awarded, among other information.

If only a notification is required, the applicant does not need to do anything other than submit the notification. However, for charity raffle lotteries and raffle bingo, the organiser must report to the authorities how the income from organising the game was used towards the charity cause.

Duration of licence and cost

Duration. Casino licences, bingo saloon permits and betting permits issued are valid for a six-year period, which can be extended for additional term of six years. Permits may be valid for no more than:

  • Three months, for poker tournaments.

  • Two years, for raffle lotteries, raffle bingo, promotional lotteries and audiotele lotteries.

Other permits are valid for a single game only.

Fees. For land-based gambling, the fees for obtaining licences and permits are as follows:

  • Casino licence. The fee is 32,000% of the base amount (about PLN1,344,000 for 2016).

  • Bingo saloon permit. The fee is 5,500% of the base amount (about PLN231,000 for 2016).

  • Betting permit. The fee is 2,000% of the base amount (about PLN84,000 for 2016) plus 50% of the base amount (about PLN2,100) per each bet making point.

  • Raffle lottery, raffle bingo. The fee is 100% of the base amount (about PLN 4,200 for 2016), or if a game is only held within one province, 50% of the base amount (about PLN2,100 for 2016).

  • Promotional lottery, audiotele lottery. The fee is 10% of the total value of prizes, but not less than 50% of the base amount (about PLN2,100 for 2016).

  • Poker tournament. The fee is 100% of the base amount (about PLN4,200 for 2016).

The base amount for a given calendar year is equal to the average monthly remuneration in enterprises (without bonuses from profit) in the second calendar quarter of the previous year as announced by the President of the Central Statistical Office in the Official Journal of the Central Statistical Office.

In addition, undertaking professional exams and obtaining certificates (for example, for croupiers, see Question 6, Restrictions) also requires the payment of the related fees.

Notifications are not subject to any fees.

6. What are the limitations or requirements imposed on land-based gambling operators?

Prohibitions

As a general rule, any activity related to gambling which does not conform to the Gambling Law is prohibited. Therefore, organising gambling games that deviate from the rules of the Gambling Law is illegal. Also, games that meet the criteria for being classified as a games of chance, but which do not fall within any specific category of such games as defined in the Gambling Law, are also prohibited.

More specific prohibitions include the following (among others):

  • Casino games, bingo and betting are only permitted within casinos, bingo saloons and bet-making points respectively.

  • Slot machine games and poker tournaments can only be located on the premises of lawfully operated casinos.

  • Online casino type games are prohibited. Only online betting is permitted.

  • Minors (under 18 years of age) can only participate in promotional lotteries and raffle lotteries: all other forms of gambling activities are prohibited for minors. Operators can ask for ID to check the participant’s age.

  • Outsourcing activities related to gambling operations to third parties, except for purely technical actions, such as selling proofs of participation or handing out prizes, is prohibited.

  • There are several prohibitions and/or restrictions regarding advertising and promotion of gambling products (see Question 15).

  • Betting on the results of number games is prohibited.

Restrictions

There are several restrictions on how gambling can be organised. The main restrictions are as follows:

  • All visitors to casinos, bingo saloons and bet-making points must register before entry. Their personal data must be stored for three years and can be accessed by the authorities. In casinos, a video record of each game must be prepared and stored for three years.

  • The winners of prizes in gambling games can request operators to issue them with a certificate for their prize. Operators must keep records of all prizes awarded with a minimum value of PLN20,000.

  • Slot machine games are very highly regulated. There are several specific provisions regarding their registration and approval, technical inspections, and operation. For example, the owner of a machine is required to have it inspected by an authorised entity when the Head of the Customs Office orders him to do so. Any instance of moving a machine to a different location must be notified in advance to the competent Head of the Customs Office and in writing.

  • Persons directly involved in gambling operations, such as croupiers or persons supervising telebingo, raffle lottery, raffle bingo, promotional lottery or audiotele lottery, as well as their supervisors and inspectors, must hold a professional licence. The Gambling Law, however, provides some specific exceptions to this rule (for example, persons who assist customers in bet making points are not required to hold a licence). The licences are issued by the Minister of Finance after passing a state exam. Persons convicted of an intentional crime cannot obtain a license. A license is valid for three years.

  • Gambling operators must keep detailed records of their activities, including details of:

    • the operation of slot machines;

    • tax base records;

    • transaction registers regarding chips and cash;

    • the tips register at the casino.

  • Detailed monthly (and in some cases daily) reports are required for casinos, bingo saloons and betting operators. The authorities can also request gambling operators to provide economic and financial operation data, such as information on revenues.

As a further punitive measure by a criminal court in addition to the standard punishment for crimes related to gambling, the court can forbid an individual from participating in gambling and entering gambling facilities. This measure can be ordered (it is not compulsory) alongside a conviction connected with organising or participating in illegal gambling. The restriction is imposed for a term of between one to ten years. Violation of this measure is a crime itself. Apart from this, there are no other entry restrictions such as “cool-off” periods or self-exclusion schemes required by law.

Anti-money laundering legislation

In general, gambling operators in Poland are subject to anti-money laundering and terrorism financing regulations.

As part of the licensing procedure, entities applying for a casino license, bingo saloon permit, betting permit or audiotele lottery permit must prove that they are in compliance with anti-money laundering laws. The General Inspector of Financial Information is authorised to carry out inspections on whether the anti-money laundering obligations have been performed correctly by entities applying for a licence or permit. Licences or permits will be revoked if there has been a money laundering conviction within the EEA.

Casino operators must register the purchase or sale of casino tokens valued at EUR1,000 or more. Details of these transactions should be sent to the General Inspector of Financial Information and must be stored for at least five years.

Casinos and bingo saloons must also verify and register the identity of their clients, which is also an anti-money laundering measure.

Online gambling

Regulation/licensing

7. What is the licensing regime (if any) for online gambling?

The only form of online gambling currently permitted in Poland is betting. A betting permit is required for online betting. No other forms of online gambling are permitted.

Although it is not explicitly stated in the Gambling Law, for promotional lotteries, in practice some activities (such as the registration procedure) can be conducted online. However, the lottery itself must take place in a physical location.

The Gambling Law, as it was initially adopted in 2009, was controversial in whether it included “technical regulations” which were not notified to the European Commission (see Question 1). These regulations particularly concerned online gambling and machine games). It is unclear whether these constituted “technical regulation” as defined by Directive 2015/1535/EU laying down a procedure for the provision of information in the field of technical regulations and of rules on Information Society services (codification). According to this directive, technical regulations must be notified to the European Commission before an act of law is passed: otherwise they are unenforceable against individuals. When the Gambling Law was passed, the provisions were not notified. The Court of Justice of the European Union stated that some provisions potentially constitute technical regulation (joined cases C-213/11, C-214/11, C-217/11 Fortuna). After many contradicting local judgements, there is currently a case in the Polish Supreme Court regarding the issue, which will hopefully clarify this situation at local level. The Supreme Court decided to suspend proceedings and wait for the CJEU’s judgment in the case C-303/15, which concerned the status of different provisions of the Gambling Law. In October 2016, the CJEU ruled in case C-303/15 that these provisions do not fall within the scope of the concept of a “technical regulation”. Now, the Supreme Court is expected to resume proceedings and pass a resolution on the matter. If the Court found that notification to the European Commission had been necessary, the ban on operating unlicensed slot machines would not be enforceable.

There was also infringement proceedings for the non-compliance of the Gambling Law with the EU law, in particular in relation to online gambling, pending before the European Commission (CHAP 2011/02594). However, these proceedings were finally closed in January 2016.

Available licences

Only online betting permits are available. There are no limitations on number of online betting operators. However, due to the restrictive nature of the Gambling Law, as of September 2016, only seven companies held online betting permits in Poland. The permits are issued for specific websites where the betting will be offered, as indicated in the application.

Eligibility

The eligibility requirements for online betting are the same as for land-based betting (see Question 5, Eligibility).

Application procedure

The procedure to obtain a betting operator permit for online betting is the same as for land-based betting (see Question 5, Application procedure). However, entities wishing to obtain permits for online betting must address certain specific issues in their application, such as the age verification mechanism for participants (in practice, a scan of ID is required on registration by most operators).

The guarantee required for online betting operators is PLN480,000.

Duration of licence and cost

Duration. The online betting permit is valid for six years.

Fees. For an online betting permit, the minimum fee is equal to 9,000% of the base amount (about PLN378,000).

If betting is limited to just one website, the fee will be calculated as follows:

  • 2,000% of the base amount for betting per se.

  • 2,000% for online betting.

  • 5,000% for each website used to offer betting services.

8. What are the limitations or requirements imposed on online gambling operators?

Prohibitions

With the exception of betting, all forms of online gambling are prohibited. Participating in online gambling organised by foreign operators that are unlicensed in Poland is also a crime.

The more specific prohibitions specified in Question 6 (such as the prohibition on gambling by minors) also apply to online betting.

Restrictions

In addition to the restrictions applicable to all forms of betting (both land-based and online (see Question 6)), online betting is subject to certain additional specific restrictions:

  • All servers and data related to online betting must be stored and located within the EU/EEA, while data exchanged between the participant and the website concerning specific bets and the participant’s identification data must be archived on a device located in Poland on a real time basis. The authorities are authorised to access the archive and the operator must provide them with access to such data (including the necessary tools and software). The data in the archive should be stored for five years; after that period the data should be deleted.

  • Only using websites with “.pl” domain name is allowed.

  • For all money operations related to online betting (for example, collecting wages, the payment of winnings and so on), betting operators can only use payment accounts kept by Polish banks, branch office of foreign banks in Poland, other credit institutions or other institution authorised to offer payment accounts under relevant payment services’ regulations.

  • Betting operators must secure the data confirming participation in betting, and must ensure that it is not subject to any interference from unauthorised persons and that it can verify its authenticity.

Anti-money laundering legislation

The anti-money laundering rules are the same for both land-based and online operators (see Question 6, Anti-money laundering legislation).

B2B and B2C

9. Is there a distinction between the law applicable between B2B operations and B2C operations in online gambling?

There is no explicit distinction between business to customer (B2C) and business to business (B2B) in online betting operators under Polish law. However, since the outsourcing of gambling operations to third parties (unless for purely technical actions) is prohibited under the Gambling Law, B2B operators would not be permitted in Poland.

Technical measures

10. What technical measures are in place (if any) to protect consumers from unlicensed operators, such as ISP blocking and payment blocking?

Although it is a criminal offence to participate in illegal gambling or betting (as well as in any forms of lawful foreign gambling or betting that is unlicensed in Poland), there are currently no technical measures in place to protect consumers from unlicensed operators (such as website blocking). For crimes related to gambling, the Customs responsible for the supervision of the gambling market in Poland can, however, apply to banks and other financial institutions for a “money freeze”.

An amendment to the Gambling Law, which introduces website blocking and an additional form of payment blocking is currently being processed in the Polish Parliament and will most likely enter into force in 2017 (see Question 17).

Mobile gambling and interactive gambling

11. What differences (if any) are there between the regulation of mobile gambling and interactive gambling on television?

At present, mobile gambling and interactive gambling are not specifically regulated by the Gambling Law. Therefore, the general provisions of the Gambling Law would apply.

Depending on the type of a game, a particular mobile gambling or interactive gambling could either fit within the definition of a slot machine game (such as a game “played with the use of mechanical, electromechanical or electronic devices, computers included, for cash or in-kind prizes, where the game features an element of randomness”) or online gambling or betting. Therefore, mobile or interactive gaming would be regulated in the same way as these forms of gambling.

Social gaming

12. How is social gaming regulated in your jurisdiction?

Generally, no specific rules exist in Poland in relation to social gaming.

The Gambling Law applies to all games of chance in which there are cash or in-kind prizes. In theory, games of chance that are free to play, but which have a cash or in-kind prize, are not permitted under the Gambling Law, although the practice so far has not been to prosecute for these types of games.

If there is no prize at all, or the prize does not consist of real money or a physical object (or intangible/virtual goods which can be sold for real money or otherwise obtained using real money or exchanged for other prizes of such nature), the game is not a game of chance under the Gambling Law and therefore such game is legal without a license. However, if the game offers game credits or virtual currency that can be won as a prize, that can be sold for real money or otherwise obtained using real money (through in-game purchase), or exchanged for other prizes that can be sold for real money or otherwise obtained using real money, such prizes would be considered “in-kind prizes” and would result in the game being classified as a game of chance under the Gambling Law.

The amendment to the Gambling Law, which will likely come into force in 2017, does not affect the issue of social gaming.

Gambling debts

13. Are gambling debts enforceable in your jurisdiction?

There are no specific provisions in relation to gambling debts under Polish law. However, in general, gambling debts are enforceable when they concern legal, licensed gambling or betting products in Poland. Illegal gambling debts (that is, debts related to unlicensed gambling or betting) are considered unenforceable under the Polish Civil Code.

The enforceability of claims related to participating in gambling is limited due to a very short statute of limitation (six months from the date they become due).

Tax

14. What are the applicable tax regimes for land-based and online gambling?

Land-based gambling

Gambling games which require a licence or permit, with the exception of promotional lotteries, are subject to gambling tax. Gambling tax also applies to games that are subject to a state monopoly.

For raffle bingo and raffle lottery held by charities, the gambling tax only applies if the value of the prizes exceeds 100% of the base amount (about PLN4,200). Gambling tax also applies to participants of poker tournaments.

Each game is subject to a different tax rate and tax base (that is, the basis for calculating taxable income). The tax base and rates are as follows:

  • Raffle lotteries or raffle bingo. The tax base is the nominal value of printed tickets used for the game and the tax rate is 10%.

  • Cash lotteries. The tax base is the total sum of revenue from sale of lots or other proofs of participation and the tax rate is 15%.

  • Number games. The tax base is the total sum of wages paid in and the tax rate is 20%.

  • Cash bingo, telebingo, audiotele lottery and poker tournament. The tax base is the total sum of revenue from the sale of lots or other proofs of participation (for an audiotele lottery, this is the income of the organiser from holding the lottery; for a poker tournament, this is the sum of the winnings decreased by entry fee) and the tax rate is 25%.

  • Slot machines. The tax base is the sum constituting the difference between the sum from exchange of chips, paid in at cash desk, credited in the slot machine memory or inserted in the slot machine and the sum of winnings received by the players and the tax rate is 50%.

  • Casino games. The tax base is the sum constituting the difference between the sum of cash payments related to exchange of chips at the cash desk or on the game table and the sum of amounts paid back from the cash desk for returned chips and the tax rate is 50%.

  • Sports betting for the competition of animals if the license issued covers only such betting. The tax base is the total sum of wages paid in and the tax rate is 2.5%.

  • Other forms of betting. The tax base is the total sum of wages paid in and the tax rate is 12%

In most cases, gambling tax is paid monthly into the account of the competent Customs Chamber. The tax on poker is deducted from winnings by the tournament organiser.

In addition to gambling tax, the winnings/prizes obtained by players in gambling or betting (with exception of casino games, slot machine games, bingo and poker tournaments) are subject to fixed rate income tax of 10% if their value exceeds PLN2,280.

Online gambling

There are no provisions for gambling tax that are specific to online gambling. Online betting operators are therefore subject to the same regime as land-based ones (see above, Land-based gambling).

Advertising

15. To what extent is the advertising of gambling permitted in your jurisdiction? To the extent that advertising is permitted, how is it regulated?

Land-based gambling

There are heavy restrictions regarding the advertising and promotion of gambling. As a general rule, the advertising and promotion of casino games, betting and slot machine games is prohibited. The definition of advertising is very broad, as it covers:

  • The advertising of gambling services per se.

  • Displaying the trade marks or other distinctive marks of gambling operators.

  • Displaying any information regarding where such games are held and how to participate in them.

It is also illegal to advertise and promote any goods or services “whose name, trade mark, graphical shape or packaging make use of the resemblance to or are equivalent to the designation of” gambling games or gambling operators.

The promotion of gambling is also prohibited. Promotion of games is defined as (Gambling Law):

  • Making public presentations of gambling games.

  • Giving out accessories related to gambling games.

  • Handing over or selling chips or tickets for gambling games in public places.

  • Other forms of public encouragement to participate in games or betting, convincing of their advantages, or encouraging them to enter a casino or bet-making point.

The final point of the definition above is particularly broad, which has led to some preposterous consequences (such as the conviction of a man who posted a photograph of himself with a roulette wheel on Facebook).

The restrictions described above do not apply to advertising and promotion that are held inside casinos or bet-making points. Operators can also mark such places with their name or logo on the outside.

The most prominent exception to the general ban on advertising and promotion takes the form of the “informing about sponsorship”. Betting operators (and only them) which sponsor other persons or entities (such as sports teams) can present themselves publicly as such sponsors. There are no restrictions as to the type of media which can be used to inform about sponsorship. However, the allowed content of such information is limited, and can only consist of the name or other form of identification of the sponsor (such as a logo), with no other promotional messages allowed.

Advertising and promotion of games of chance other than specified above (bingo, lotteries and some games subject to state monopoly (see Questions 2 and 4) is not prohibited and is therefore considered legal, in all media. The points outlined above do not apply to these types of games.

Online gambling

Online betting can only be advertised on the operator’s website indicated in the betting permit. Land-based gambling games which are allowed to be advertised (see above, Land-based gaming ) can also be advertised online. Both land-based and online betting operators can also use the internet to inform about sponsorship, with the same limitations as indicated for land-based betting. The restriction of using only websites indicated in the betting permit does not apply here.

Developments and reform

Legal development

16. Has the legal status of land-based and online gambling changed significantly in recent years, and if so how?

Land-based gambling

The Gambling Law, which came into force on 1 January 2010, introduced some major changes to the way land-based gambling is regulated, mainly:

  • Increasing the fees required to obtain gambling operators’ licences or permits, as well as increasing the taxes related to gambling and betting.

  • Introducing stricter limitations on the locations of casinos, the introduction of the casino operator’s licence requirement (previously a permit was required, in general, the law imposes more restrictions on activities which require a licence).

  • Banning poker in any form other than tournaments in casinos.

  • Introducing a new definition of betting, which previously did not cover betting for in-kind prizes.

  • Introducing several restrictions concerning slot machine games, including the requirement they can be installed inside casinos only (under the old regulations, slot machines were also allowed in other places). After the Gambling Law was passed, permits regarding operating slot machine games were no longer issued and existing ones expired.

  • Introducing administrative fines for operating without required licences or permits (up to 100% of income from such illegal activity), which are imposed alongside criminal sanctions.

The Gambling Law has been amended several times. The key amendments applicable to land-based gambling include:

  • Introducing the requirement to register personal data of participants and to video record all games played in casinos and bingo salons.

  • Relaxing the requirements to organise raffle lotteries or raffle bingo when these are held by charitable institutions.

  • Changes regarding taxation (clarifying that tax bases for different games cannot be combined for the same gambling operator).

  • Allowing entities from the EU/EEA to operate in the gambling and betting business in Poland provided they act through a representative in Poland (the requirement of a permanent establishment in Poland was lifted after the European Commission’s letter of formal notice of possible infringement of EU law).

Online gambling

No form of online gambling or betting was allowed prior to the introduction of the amendment to the Gambling Law, which came into force on 14 July 2011. This amendment permitted only online betting.

Reform

17. What, if any, are the likely short-term and long-term developments/legislative amendments concerning gambling in your jurisdiction? Are there any proposals for reform?

Recent developments are as follows:

  • On 19 July 2016, the Council of Ministers passed a bill to amend the Gambling Law which introduces significant changes to the legal landscape of the gambling business, both land-based and online. The draft legislation has been notified to the European Commission and sent to the Polish Parliament for consideration. It is expected to enter into force on 1 January 2017, although the date is subject to change. The amendment is likely to come into force because the current government is supported by the majority of the Parliament and the President. The bill is currently not final and may undergo various changes during the legislative process. The overview that follows is based on the most recent version of the bill, as passed by the Council of Ministers on 19 July 2016 and sent to the parliament. On 2 September 2016, it was forwarded for the Parliament’s consideration (first reading).

  • In a separate bill, the government intends to unite the services responsible for customs and taxes by introducing a new service: the National Fiscal Administration. According to the near-final bill (as of 8 November 2016), the officers of the Administration will have the duties currently reserved for the customs. The responsibilities of the Director of the Customs Chamber will be performed by the Director of the Tax Administration Chamber and the responsibilities of the Head of the Customs Office will be split between the Head of the Tax Office (urzd skarbowy) and the Head of the Customs and Tax Office (urzd celno-skarbowy), which will be separate entities. In general, the administrative duties, such as those regarding notifications, issuing fines, registering of slot machines, among others, will be restricted to the Head of the Customs and Tax Office, while those regarding taxes will be the domain of the Head of the Tax Office. This bill is in the final stages of the legislative process, is very likely to be signed into law by the President and is expected to come into force on 1 March 2017.

Land-based gambling

The proposed amendments to the Gambling Law introduce significant changes to several aspects of land-based gambling, mainly:

  • Allowing slot machines outside of casinos, in newly-established slot machine parlours. Operating such parlours, however, will be restricted to state monopoly.

  • Allowing the playing of poker outside of tournaments held in casinos, to a limited degree. The amendment allows the following variants of playing poker:

    • inside a casino, against the casino (with no requirement for a permit or a notification);

    • inside a casino, in the form of a tournament between players;

    • outside a casino, but organised by a casino license holder, in the form of a tournament between the players;

    • outside a casino, organised by a natural or legal person, in the form of a tournament between the players. In this variant, the game can only be played for in-kind prizes which total value may not exceed 50% of the base amount (about PLN2,100).

  • In each case above, the terms of the game/tournament should be approved by the Minister of Finance. All poker tournaments should be notified to the Director of the Customs Chamber in advance.

  • Having professional certificates and passing exams to supervise gambling or conduct games will no longer be required. Instead, the amendment requires these persons to undergo training every three years. The training can be organised either:

    • internally by the gambling operator; or

    • by a separate training facility.

  • Advertising bookmaking will now be possible. The amendment removes bookmaking from the list of gambling services which cannot be advertised, making it no longer illegal, and retains the other regulations on the matter (therefore informing about sponsorship will still be permitted). The promotion of bookmaking is still prohibited. The amendment does not apply to totalisator systems (the other form of betting). These still cannot be advertised, with exception of as indicated above (see Question 15). No changes are introduced to the advertising and promotion of other forms of gambling;

  • To enforce the amendments, the bill stipulates that it will be a crime to possess a slot machine (barring specific exceptions). In addition to this, further administrative fines have also been introduced (for example, a fixed fine of PLN100,000 for each illegal machine). The fines will also concern owners of property on which unregistered slot machines are present.

Online gambling

The proposed amendments to the Gambling Law introduce major changes regarding online gambling, such as:

  • Blocking illegal gambling websites. According to the bill, the Minister of Finance will maintain a register of websites “addressed to customers in the territory of Republic of Poland” which are used for gambling and do not possess valid licenses or permits. The owners will be allowed to appeal if their websites are entered into the register. Internet service providers in Poland will be required to re-route users from blocked websites to a website maintained by the government, which will contain information about the register. Furthermore, payment processing entities will be required to cease providing services for blocked websites. Internet service providers and payment processors will face severe administrative fines for violating the new laws.

  • Changes to the catalogue of gambling games allowed online. Generally, any type of gambling (including card games, lotteries, slot machine games) will be allowed. However, most of these will be reserved for state monopoly. Private entities will only be allowed to hold promotional lotteries and betting online.

  • A new requirement for all online gambling operators (including betting) to prepare and implement their own terms and conditions of responsible gaming. The document will have to include (among others):

    • the terms and conditions of each game;

    • information about the risks of gambling;

    • the registration procedure; and

    • the procedure for verification of the age of players.

  • Advertising of bokmaking (also in its online form) will be legal.

  • According to the amendment, online gambling websites must not contain offers or advertisements of certain financial services, such as loans.

Social gaming

The proposed amendments to the Gambling Law do not cover social gaming.

 

The regulatory authorities

Minister of Finance

W www.mf.gov.pl/

Description. The Minister of Finance is the chief organ of gambling-related administration. The Minister issues casino licences and permits for bingo saloons, betting operators and poker tournaments, as well as issues individual decisions on whether a particular game should be regulated by the Gambling Law.

Director of the Customs Chamber

W www.warszawa.scelna.gov.pl/ (for Mazovian province)

Description. Each Director of the Customs Chamber operates within a province of Poland. For entities which do not have a registered office/representative/branch in Poland, the Director of the Customs Chamber in Warsaw has competent authority. The Director issues permits regarding promotional lotteries, audiotele lotteries, raffle lotteries and raffle bingo. He/she also imposes administrative fines for organising gambling without obtaining proper licences or permits. Customs Chambers are authorised to inspect compliance with gambling laws and can enforce them.

Head of the Customs Office

W www.warszawa.scelna.gov.pl/jednostki-podlegle/ (for offices in Mazovian province)

Description. There are several Customs Offices in each province of Poland. The heads of the Offices are competent to receive notifications regarding raffle bingo or raffle lotteries. The Customs Offices are allowed to inspect compliance with gambling laws and can enforce them. They also collect gambling tax.

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Online resources

Dziennik Ustaw (Journal of Laws)

W http://dziennikustaw.gov.pl/

Description. The official publication of promulgated laws in Poland. This contains up-to-date original texts of new laws and is maintained by the Prime Minister.

Internetowy System Aktów Prawnych (Internet System of Legal Acts)

W http://isap.sejm.gov.pl/

Description. As documents published in Dziennik Ustaw contain only the amendments to existing laws, it is more practical to use consolidated texts which combine all amendments in one easy-to-read document. Although the database is maintained by the Sejm (lower house of the Polish Parliament), its contents are not official (only laws published in Dziennik Ustaw are considered official and binding).

Gambling Law

W www.finanse.mf.gov.pl/uk/gambling

Description. Unofficial English translation of the Gambling Law as of September 2015, prepared by the Ministry of Finance. This should be read with caution, as it contains some errors and is non-binding.

Source: Practical Law

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