Slot machines effectively nationalised

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Excerpts from an interview with Jaroslaw Gowin conducted by Piotr Gociek on the planned amendments to the Gambling Act, aired on December 12, 2016 on the Polish Radio.

Piotr Gociek: One of the legacies of Donald Tusk’s government was the rapidly passed Gambling Act, created in the aftermath of the so called ‘gambling scandal’. The Act was amended, but not according to your will. A few months ago there was a big debate about what to do, not only about slot machines, but also, for example, bookmakers. Should the money come back and be used legally to sponsor Polish sport? You lost the debate.

Jaroslaw Gowin: I lost it a few years ago when I raised my hand for the implementation of the anti-gambling Act. Poland suffered huge losses, multibillion losses, as a result of this bill. As you mentioned, a few months ago, we decided to change the law so that the money would flow back into the budget. There were two concepts: one belonging to Paweł Szałamacha, the Minister of Finance at the time, who wanted the state to have strict control not only over  hard gambling, which I agree with, but also betting or playing poker. This would actually push these practices into an illegal market. We have asked the European Commission for a notification. The process took many months, it was clear that not everyone wanted Poland to start catching up on the benefits we could have been reaping from the gambling market. We finally have our notification …

Piotr Gociek: At the moment, slot machines have effectivedly been nationalised, as they are now in control of the National Lottery…

 Jaroslaw Gowin: This is the correct solution.

Piotr Gociek … but as you said, bookmaking remains in the illegal market.

 Jaroslaw Gowin: Deputy Minister Morawiecki and I have decided to not change the law, because we would be risking… that the notification would be withdrawn, which would mean that, for the next several months, gambling would remain in the illegal market, and Poland would lose 100, 200 or 300 million PLN each month. However, immediately after the adoption of the new law, we will prepare another one, which will liberalise betting and poker, allowing players to safely bet on sports and play poker freely. Another important thing, especially for sports world – the new Act, which I believe will be adopted by the Parliament this week, will allow advertising bookmakers, which means huge benefits for Polish sports.

Piotr Gociek: And what about changes in university funding? Does this bring us directly to what is going on in your ministry?

 Jaroslaw Gowin: Yes, these are very important changes. The fact that Polish universities are ranked so low in world ratings is largely a consequence of poor financing. In short, the more students they had, the more money they were getting. This caused the level of education to fall. As of January 1, we will put an end to this tendency. Universities will no longer be financed according to the number of students, but the quality of education. The new financing plans will take into account the ratio between the number of students and the number of research workers. If there are more than thirteen students for each research worker, the universities will lose money. It will also be the first time we take into account the quality of the lecturers’ academic achievements. I am convinced that the new principles of financing will lead to a significant increase the level of education at Polish universities within about… two to three years.

 Piotr Gociek: A moment ago, we talked about the nationalisation of slot machines. A similar tendency is occuring in the banking sector and some government officials are talking about nationalising the media. As a true liberal, how do you find yourself in this situation? It’s probably…

Jaroslaw Gowin: I really am all about the free market, and Margaret Thatcher or Ronald Reagan will always remain my political mentors. But capital has a nationality. We saw this during the banking crisis of 2008, when even banks operating in Poland, most of which were foreign, stopped lending money to Polish entrepreneurs and moved their funds to entrepreneurs in their home country. Therefore, the nationalization of PeKaO SA is the fulfillment of a very important promise. We stand for economic patriotism, and we will consistently work to strengthen Polish capital, but Polish capital primarily consists of small and medium-sized companies. Consistent work is needed in all areas in order to improve business conditions for small and medium-sized companies. Further reforms are being prepared by Minister Morawiecki, many of which will come into force on January 1. One of these is the Innovations Act, which I prepared, but these are all only first steps to really support Polish capital.

Piotr Gociek: That was the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Science and Higher Education Jaroslaw Gowin. Thank you very much.

Jaroslaw Gowin: Thank you very much.

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