Gambling organisers must be recognised in order to be punished

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Sanctions for holding illegal slot machine games may be imposed on more than one company. However, this doesn’t mean that officials can automatically and freely widen the circle of those they can punish.

The dispute concerned punishments for illegal slot machines. The problems of two punished men started in October 2014, when customs officials inspected one of their arcades. They found that the arcade housed only one slot machine which belonged to a Wrocław based company. The machine was ready to be used at the time of the inspection. The machine did not have official authentication. The inspectors determined that the operator had an agreement with the machine’s owners. On this basis, he rented a 3 square meter space for the machine. The inspectors confirmed that the machine complied with regulations for slot machine games. Assessors’ opinions made during the trial for operating a slot machine outside a casino confirmed that the machine was used for games for cash or material prizes.

The owner of the arcade was fined for 12 000 PLN, because he could have been recognized as someone holding gambling games. Undoubtedly, he gave paid permission to place the machine in his arcade and made it possible to organize illegal gambling. A separate penalty was imposed on the machine’s owner.

The case for punishing the arcade owner went to the courtroom. The Regional Administrative Court in Wrocław considered his complaint.

The court shared the findings and conclusions on the gambling aspect of the machine games. It pointed out that the entity which could have the status of “the person holding games” is to be fined. Admittedly, the concept of “someone holding games” was never defined. The court noticed that the main reason for recognizing the accuser as such an entity was the rental agreement with the slot machine operator i.e giving paid access in an arcade and making it possible to organize illegal games and gaining benefits from them.

Merely renting a space isn’t enough.

In the court’s eyes, this is not proof that the accuser was in fact the entity holding the games. The court declared that the contents of the rental agreement do not give grounds to state that both sides agreed on how to use the machines. The agreement merely states that the accuser made a commitment to rent part of his arcade to the machine’s owner in order for it to be used and exploited by the renter. The contract gave him a 60% cut of the benefits from the machine (understood as the difference between the payments and losses of the machine). The court stressed that the renting of the space to another entity in order to operate slot machines does not make the renter the person holding games. Neither of the act’s regulations forbids signing contracts that allow another entity to hold such games (nor does it penalize such behavior). According to the court some form of active participation in organizing and offering such games is necessary.

Demonstrating the circumstances of granting access to space to another entity in order to help him conduct such a business isn’t enough. The court noticed that in order for this to happen, the agreement would have to state that the person renting space would be holding such games. Or that holding and therefore organizing games in order to gain benefits would be a mutual endeavor.

In this case the agreement does not contain such a statement. Determining the rent by getting a percentage of the benefits from the machines still doesn’t make it mutual.

According to the Regional Administrative Court, the direct source of income is the rent and not the slot machine, regardless of the way the hirer gets income. Therefore, it is difficult to call the shop owner a ‘game organiser’ if he didn’t actively offer or organize gambling.

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