Organizing gambling games – what’s changed?

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New regulations made to the Gambling Act of December 15, 2016 (Journal of Laws from 2017, pos. 88) came into life on April 1, 2017. The new law is to protect players from the dangers of gambling and level out the negative effects on the state budget caused by the illegal market.

Holding money lotteries, numerical games, tele-bingo, slot machine games outside of casinos and online casinos has been monopolized by the state. What’s more, the amendment will result in gambling websites being blocked. A register of domains breaking the laws of the November 16, 2009 Gambling Act (Journal of Laws from 2016, pos. 471 with changes) will be opened on July 1, 2017. Punishments for operating illegal games have been increased. These are just a few of the solutions from the long list implemented by the amendment. We will discuss the remaining changes below, including those related to operating promotional lotteries and mutual bets which haven’t been monopolized by the state.

So, what are gambling games?

As of April 1, 2017, gambling games are defined by paragraph 2, which was added to article 2 of the Gambling Act. According to it, gambling games are games of chance, card games, mutual bets, and slot machine games. Until now, this regulation did not contain a similar definition. It’s worth pointing out that promotional lotteries in which the contestants participate by buying goods, services or other proof of taking part in the game, while the entity holding the game offers cash or material prizes, are considered to be games of chance.

What kind of games can be held online by entities not operating on behalf of the state monopoly?

The amendment expands the catalogue of gambling games which can be held online, i.e. numerical games, cash lotteries, card games and slot machine games of chance. Operating gambling games online, with the exception of promotional lotteries, has been monopolized by the state and will be held by one-man state owned companies (currently the Sports Pool). Only mutual bets and promotional lotteries may be organized by entities other than state owned ones, after obtaining a license.

What obligations do entities holding online gambling games have?

An obligation, imposed by the amendment, to give the State Treasury Administration access to data stored by an archive system belonging to the entity holding gambling games is a novelty. The system will allow reading, copying and processing data exchanged between the entity holding the gambling game and the player. The equipment processing and archiving the data concerning gambling games and their players can be located in a EU or EFTA country, however domains of the highest level will still have to be ascribed to Polish websites, i.e. they will have to end in .pl.

In accordance with the new article 15 of the Gambling Act, the entity holding gambling games online which owns a license or approval or applied for organizing such games is obliged to carry out transactions concerning those games in accordance with the Transactions Act of August 19, 2011 (Journal of Laws from 2016, pos. 1572 with changes) is only allowed to use the payment services mentioned in article 4, paragraph 2, points 1-4, 6 and 9 of said act. This means a state owned bank, a branch of a foreign bank, thrift institutions or the State Credit and Savings Office. From April 1, these have to implement responsible gaming rules.

What are responsible gaming rules?

These aren’t simply the terms and conditions of a game. Article 15 of the Gambling act makes implementing them obligatory.

Responsible gaming rules contain the obligation to place the following information in a visible part of a website used to hold gambling games:

•    information about the entity offering the games and contact information,
•    information about its license to hold gambling games i.e. its legal status, its expiry date and the name of the institution which gave the license if such a license is needed,
•    information on the prohibition of under-aged gambling,
•    information on risks from gambling,
•    names of institutions offering help to gambling addicts and links to their websites.

The rules have to contain an age verification procedure and determine the terms and conditions of registering as a condition of starting the game. Mechanisms allowing the players to control their activity on the website and preventing them from playing after they have run out of money on their account will also be obligatory. The way trade information is displayed on the website should protect under-aged persons.

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