The gambling business is thriving

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New, albeit illegal, gambling arcades are opening across western parts of the Małopolska. Raids by customs officials and high fines aren’t enough to scare off the owners. Their business is very profitable.

Fifty illegal slot machines were seized by customs officials as a result of inspections carried out at the end of November in a few towns in western Małopolska. The value of these machines is estimated at around 325, 000 PLN.

‘Most importantly, officals checked where the machines came from, as well as whether they were operating legally. They also checked the games installed on them and the owners’ licenses,’ says Małgorzata Jurecka from the Oświęcim police. The Penal and Fiscal code states that the punishment for organizing illegal games of chance is up to 3 years in prison and a fine. The courts decide on the amount.

A game of cat and mouse

Until the end of 2015, operating a slot machine arcade was legal if the owner had a license. There were around 53, 000 machines registered in Poland. Everything changed after the amendment to the Gambling Act. Today, slot machines can only be operated in casinos and getting a permit to open one is difficult. There can only be one casino per 250, 000 people in an urban area. This means that only two casinos can operate in western Małopolska. This causes illegal businesses to thrive. ‘The owners of these places try to dodge the law by labelling them as arcade games’, says Tomasz Kierski, spokesman of the Customs Office in Kraków.

It is up to the inspectors to prove that the winnings do not depend on players’ skills but on luck, meaning it is actually a game of chance. Despite amendments to the Gambling Act, the arcades haven’t disappeared. On the contrary – new outlets open in cities and crowded urban areas. Most of them are located in old kiosks or barracks.

‘There’s a lot of it here. I don’t see many people using them, but if they’re opening new arcades all the time it means that the business is thriving,’ says Tomasz Krupa from Chrzanów.

Even though slot machines continue being seized by customs officials, many individuals don’t shut down their businesses. Even fines for illegal activities don’t scare them off.

‘Sometime new machines appear in places which have already been inspected, or else the businesses are moved elsewhere,’ says Robert Matyasik from the Chrzanów police.

New amendment needed?

MPs Dorota Niedziela and Marek Sowa showed interest in the gambling arcade boom and turned to Mateusz Morawiecki, the Minister of Finance. According to the MPs, a new amendment is needed in order to clamp down on illegal gambling arcades. ‘Under the current law, organizing games of chance is penalised, but owning slot machines is not,’ says Marek Sowa.

Read more at: Gazeta krakowska

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