[Poland] Law and Justice to nationalise gambling

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Law & Justice (Prawo i Sprawiedliwość) plans to amend the Gambling Act. In order to do this, they set up a special subcommittee within the parliamentary commission of public finances.

The subcommittee consists of nine members of parliament – five from Law & Justice, two from Kukiz’15 and two from .Nowoczesna.

Within the subcommittee, Maria Zuba (elected as the Chairperson), Wojciech Murdzek, Sylwester Tułajew, Barbara Bubula and Gabriela Masłowska represent Law & Justice; Zbigniew Konwiński and Artur Gierada represent Platforma Obywatelska, Michał Jaros represents Nowoczesna and the vice-president of the financial committee, Rafał Wójcikowski, represents Kukiz’15.

The latter filed a request for a public hearing on the amendment of the Gambling Act on Wednesday. The proposed date of the hearing is October 4, 2016.

Wójcikowski argued that the act may not receive EU notification and therefore the parliament must listen to the public opinion on the introduction of a government monopoly as proposed in the act. The request has not been supported by the financial committee.

Protecting players..?

The first reading of the proposed amendments to the Gambling Act was held in Parliament last week. Deputy Minister of Finance Wiesław Janczyk stated that the goal of the amendments is to protect players from the negative effects of gambling and clamp down on informal business.

The proposed changes will completely transform the 2009 Gambling act ie. by introducing strong government control over slot machines. The current law, adopted after the outbreak of the so-called “gambling scandal” in the autumn of 2009, prohibits slot machines outside casinos.

The new document extends the list of legal games – poker, for example, will be allowed outside casinos. At the same time, most games will be monopolised by the state, making sure players “feel safe”.

Under the new act, slot machines will be able to operate legally outside casinos only on premises run by companies owned by the state treasury.

During the reading, Janczyk emphasised that the new law aims to reduce the number of informal businesses, “especially in terms of slot machines and online gambling”. The state monopoly will also cover online gambling, with the exception of betting and promotional lotteries.

Under the new law, it will be possible to block both access to illegal websites as well as “payments to entities offering illegal online gambling”, said the Deputy Minister of Finance. The Ministry itself will also keep a register of domains providing access to illegal gambling. Anyone who enters these domains will immediately be informed that they are illegal, as well as being redirected to the Ministry of Finance website.

Sites included in the register will be entitled to object in a procedure subject to judicial review. Links offering quick payment will be removed from illegal sites. Janczyk emphasised that “Players will be able to realize whether or not they are playing legally”.

Compulsory registration

The new act also introduces age verification mechanisms. It will also make registration compulsory. Players will be able to control their activity. This is designed to protect minors and people with addictive personalities.

The act will prohibit unauthorized entities from owning slot machines. The project also involves increasing the penalties for unlicensed games from 12 thousand PLN to 100 thousand PLN per machine.

According to Janczyk, the Ministry of Finance expects annual budget revenues to increase by about 1.5 billion PLN.

The new act would come into force from January 1, 2017, leaving businesses three months to comply with its requirements.

The Ministry of Finance directed the draft bill to the European Commission before the first reading in Parliament. The European Commission is expected to respond by 31 October, 2016.

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