Something’s rotten in the state of Poland, but there’s always hope

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As every year, the time has come to sum up everything that took place during the last 366 days. Unfortunately, what we’ve been seeing on political scene and our predictions for the near future of the gambling business does not look optimistic.

We are witnessing the introduction of restrictive laws, as well as the monopolisation of a very specific sector of the business – slot machines, especially those operating in bars, pubs and arcades.

The new laws will mean that operators and their employees will not be able to function normally. They will also deprive thousands of slot machine operators of their profits.

On the other hand, these changes mean bigger state control over this sensitive spot of the gambling business. A state monopoly shall be imposed on an entity chosen by the Ministry of Finance and all companies it sublicenses. Furthermore, revenues will be fully taxed, ‘responsible gaming’ schemes shall be implemented in slot machine arcades and limits shall be imposed on the number of machines which will be allowed to operate. Even though the executive regulations of the amendment aren’t known yet, it’s not likely that they could hamper a swift kick-off for the entities in question.

Since the 1990s, pushers or vending machines have been swept out by low stakes slot machines. This period is coming to an end. The concept of legal slot machine arcades is also fading away. Restrictive regulations and colossal fines for operating, storing or trading slot machines will be similar to the sums for drug dealing or illegal distilleries. These penalties are expected to stop private entities from operating slot machines.

Unfortunately, nothing is going to change this. Slot machines will either remain under the state treasury or casino operators. Those who refuse to believe this will become desperados fighting against the state, which is fully equipped to combat illegal gambling and backed by a newly passed law, as well as trained services.

It is with great sadness and pity that I write these words, but I would also like to encourage operators to approach the new laws with sensibility and to anaylse them in depth. Each and every one of you will have important decisions to make regarding your future careers. I hope that you will not encounter any problems. A certain period is coming to an end and we must accept this as a fact.

The new law will make things easier for the bookmaking sector. Entities licensed by the ministry will have better fiscal conditions and will be able to advertise with greater ease. It is this sector which is assumed to increase and develop the most, much like in other countries. Blocking websites of companies without legal licenses should make things easier and change the income proportion. It is worth remembering that offshore bookmakers, who do not have concessions from the Ministry, currently occupy 90% of the entire market in Poland.

I also see this as a certain alternative for slot machine operators. It will now be possible to change arcades into betting shops. Of course, the income will be incomparable, but it is a solution nonetheless.

Poker players, who have been persecuted by former governments, don’t have anything to look forward to in terms of normalization and better laws concerning their sector. Despite their successes in international championships and despite an estimated number of 50.000 players, the normalization of poker is still not possible. This is one of the saddest examples of the consequences of changes in the political scene. It would seem that poker does not pose such a threat as slot machines and therefore should be treated less restrictively.

Unfortunately, the times of the Wild West, where illegal poker games could be played in salons among clouds of thick smoke, are still alive in the minds of the government. I have yet to think of a way to change the way people perceive poker. Maybe if Joan of Arc teamed up with Mother Theresa and Florence Nightingale, they might be able to persuade our lawmakers. But maybe not. Maybe a cat?

Casinos also remain out of the question. The thriving online gambling sector will also find it difficult to legally offer services in Poland. We still don’t know how th state wants to deal with the subject. However, bearing in mind the incompetence and passivity of government officials, I presume that it will be out of the picture for a long time.

In this new reality, a maximum of 52 stationary casinos will be left in Poland. I don’t expect any changes in this sector. The gigantic investments needed to open casinos and the procedural difficulties involved with obtaining a license for another 6 years don’t give hope for a revolution in this branch. If the criteria for getting a license do not change, new casinos simply will not open.

The situation after recent changes to gambling laws is a sad one. There are no winners or benefactors of the so-called ‘good change’. The legislator, in fact the ruling party, is trying to limit legal ways of offering gambling services to its citizens. Once again, we can clearly see that it’s better to eliminate and limit (i.e. prohibit) than to introduce a tightly controlled solution for offering such services by the gambling sector rationally and accordingly to EU solutions.

Luckily, E-PLAY still exists (although we may be in danger) and for as long as it’s possible we will inform our dear readers about the events on the gambling market, in Poland and in the world.

I wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, hoping for a better future. Perhaps someday soon things will go back to normal in Poland. Someday…

Iwo Bulski

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