We spoke to Tomasz Chalimoniuk, market expert and Chairman of the Polish Jockey Club, about the situation of horse racing in Poland and the slot machine market.
E-PLAY: The current situation of race horse breeders is difficult. Last year’s changes in the boards of Arabian horse stud farms, the failed auction of Arabian horses Janów, and no existing vision for development have all had a negative impact on horse breeding in Poland. The lack of a coherent agenda for existing race tracks doesn’t help either. Why is this happening in a country where, for many centuries, horses were the most respected animals?
Tomasz Chalimoniuk: Contrary a lot of information circulating in the media, horse breeding in Poland is not only associated with the farm in Janów Podlaski. While the turmoil around the changes in Janow affected the perception of the industry, it did not have much influence on its development. For several years, we have seen a slow yet steady increase in the number of horses being trained. I hope that the 200th anniversary celebrations in Janów and the upcoming 2017 auction will erase the bad impressions from 2016.
E-PLAY: Your experience with racing is just as vast as your knowledge of mutual bets related to the Horse Gambling Pools in other countries. Why does only one of the bookmakers – Totolotek – have an offer bets on horse racing to Polish customers?
Tomasz Chalimoniuk: The problem with betting on horse racing results is associated with the limitations imposed by the Gambling Act. Created in a hurry and in an atmosphere of scandal, the Act threw all eggs into one basket and prevented the development of this branch of gambling. The costs related to launching betting shops will never pay off, so there is no interest on the market in developing bets on horse races.
E-PLAY: The upcoming changes to the amendment to the Act will give some relief to bookmakers (giving them the ability to advertise and providing fiscal reduction), resulting in an increase of interest in the Polish market among large international companies with large advertising budgets. I’m not talking about sponsorship, but CPC, CPA and popular affiliate campaigns. How do you think Polish companies in this difficult market can compete with the big guys?
Tomasz Chalimoniuk: I’m afraid they can’t, and this could cause many small companies which have been on the market for years to shut down and replaced by the big fish. The capital potential of global companies, which they can spend on marketing and promotion will prevent local entities from fighting them.
E-PLAY: Do you have the impression that a certain form of gambling market monopolization, which would give the state control over online gambling and slot machines is a bad idea? The monopolist is completely unprepared for the changes, they have no structures or know-how and insufficient funds for these kind of investments What benefits or changes do you think it will bring?
Tomasz Chalimoniuk: When it comes to slot machines, the situation is much more complicated. The current law has proven to be completely ineffective in this area. Legitimate low stake slot machine operators were liquidated and replaced by a network of illegal slot machines, giving the state even less influence on the market. I think that some form of state control must be entered in place of a complete prohibition. Entrusting the creation of a central system to the same company which will be implementing the government monopoly is only a good idea for making a quick adjustment to the market.
E-PLAY: The repeated reluctance of legislators to use the services of experts over the years means that the amendment to the Act may be another legal dud might further damage the market. As a long-standing expert, are you also under the impression that no matter the current government’s political views, gambling is always an unwanted subject which is only ever used to patch up budget holes?
Tomasz Chalimoniuk: I agree. The work on the gambling law should involve less politics and more substance. The previous Act is the best example. When it was implemented, the market was deregulated and the state budget suffered heavy losses simply because of politics. I am surprised that no one has come to this conclusion.
E-PLAY: What is your view on the future of the bookmaking market in Poland? Is there room for other players? What will determine their success in the future?
Tomasz Chalimoniuk: I think so. The market requires regulation, but in my opinion it still has great potential for development. It just needs to improve its profitability by reducing the costs of organization and running operations. I don’t just mean taxes – it needs more of a philosophical change. Today, the state still treats the industry like an illegal market. The amount of inspections and vague law enforcement are the biggest problem for bookmaking companies in Poland. Every Customs office in the country has a different view on the completion of the Act.