Polish Bar Council Endorses Delaying Blacklist Gambling Law

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The Polish Bar Council (PBC) has submitted an opinion to parliament in which it endorses a draft bill by the Kukiz’15 parliamentary organisation. Under this draft legislation, the full entry into force of the country’s gambling law would be delayed from this July to January 2018.

In its opinion, the PBC backed the argument that the lack of any input from stakeholders in the new legislation was a major oversight.

As of April 1 this year, Poland introduced legislation designed to eliminate its grey market. Online sports-betting companies will need to be locally licensed, while the government will have a monopoly over the online casino market.
Internet service providers (ISPs) will also be required to block access to a long list of offshore operators from July 1, with the country having recently begun to populate its official blacklist.

“Generally speaking, the law from December 15, 2016 has introduced important changes within the field of the gambling market, among others: broad changes within the field of rights and requirements of entrepreneurs active in the regulated field,” read the council’s opinion.

It added that the law also covered “the introduction of an additional control mechanism regarding the allocation of licences to perform activities in the field of gambling, expanding the catalogue of entities that are subject to financial penalties for violating the law’s regulations, as well as changes to the regulations on limitations on gambling advertising”.
In addition to this, the PBC said that

“the evaluation of the lawmakers’ draft bill needs to also take into account that [Poland’s new gambling law] is a source of numerous doubts regarding its interpretation and legal issues, in particular regarding the entities on which it impacts directly”.

A group of MPs from opposition organisation Kukiz’15 submitted the draft bill on February 24, aiming to delay the law’s entry into force, based on claims that the legislation could generate excessive costs for the state budget.

On March 8, the draft was sent for further legislative work to the parliament’s Public Finance Committee, even though it could have been easily cancelled by the lawmakers of the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party at that stage, given their comfortable majority in the parliament’s lower chamber, the Sejm.
That said, the Office of the Prosecutor General has submitted an opinion on the draft bill in which it opposes delaying the gambling law’s introduction.

“The proposed extension of the vacatio legis period, due to the extent of illegal activities in respective segments of the gambling market will cause the State Treasury to lose significant revenues,” according to the opinion. “This is particularly related to the market segment of slot machines and internet-based gambling.”

The prosecutor general’s office also claims that “in the course of the government’s legislative process, the project was consulted on and numerous remarks were submitted, and included, to a large extent”.
From July 1, under Article 15f of Poland’s gambling law, local ISPs will be given 48 hours to block access to blacklisted websites. Should they fail to do so, they risk fines of up to PLN500,000 (€119,000).

However, early tests of the government’s plan ended in embarrassment, as the Ministry of Finance accidentally blocked local access to its own website.
At date of publication, the official blacklist consists of 66 domains, with the latest additions including betworld.com, www.norsebet.com and www.olybet.it.

The criteria for selecting the domains that populate the list has been another source of controversy. On April 30, Jacek Wilk, a lawmaker from Kukiz’15, submitted a request for information to the finance minister in which he stated that “the social network Facebook offers a number of games that correspond with the terms of playing on slot machines” and provided examples of several such apps.

In his interpellation, the MP asked the finance minister to specify whether “the domain facebook.com or apps.facebook.com will be included in the register of domains used to offer gambling”.

Written by: Jarosław Adamowski

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