Nov 15, 2022
Casino Blog

Poland; The State of Play for Gambling in The Country

While the debate rages around the world about the pros and cons of gambling, there has been a decisive move to liberalize the industry and lift restrictions on what people can and cannot do.

The UK was fundamental when it set out to create a well-regulated industry, and the lessons learned have shaped many markets globally. After the initial legislation was enacted, a significant change was the rise of online gaming, and new codes of practice had to be formulated. In general, many countries have welcomed the increased tax revenues generated by the industry. The USA and Canada are other significant markets reaping the rewards of opening up to regulated, legalized gambling.

In Europe, The European Betting and Gambling Association is working across borders to implement safe gambling practices and prevent gambling harms. However, there is little harmonisation in the industry, and different countries have their own views on gambling. Poland stands out amongst its neighbours for having particularly moralistic views on gambling. However, this was not always the case. 

Before the Soviet Union annexed it, Poland had a vibrant casino scene in seaside resorts like Sopot. Destroyed by Red Army shelling in World War II, they could not reopen under Soviet occupation. However, the Poles still enjoyed a flutter. One shipping company found a loophole that meant they could have gambling tables on their ferries. As a result, their ships traveling to and from Scandinavia became tourist destinations.

When the Iron Curtain was lifted, Poland became a much less restrictive society. During the 80s and 90s, there was virtually no regulation of the gambling industry. However, since 2005, much more stringent laws have come into place. The Ministry of Finance regulates all online sites, land-based casinos, slot machine parlours, and betting shops. Unfortunately, accession to the EU has not seen any softening of the regulation. However, Polish speakers can access sites outside the country, like, that signposts them to the best online options.

Wagering in Poland is controlled by the Gambling Law of November 19th, 2009. Operators had lobbied the Government to try and influence politicians to have controls more akin to neighbouring EU countries. In fact, lobbying had the reverse effect. Wanting to show that lobbyists' money could not buy influence, the Government introduced the existing restrictive arrangements.

Before December 15th, 2016, the only online betting allowed was sports betting. Following an amendment to the law, the state-owned Totalizator Sportowy can now offer online casino-style games. However, it is still illegal to play online poker in Poland. The game is enormously popular in the country, and many people feel the current laws are far too restrictive.

For sports betting, all online operators must have a physical presence in Poland. In addition, they have to provide The Ministry of Finance with up-to-date databases of their registered players. When this law came into force, many international operators like William Hill, bet365, Bwin, and Olympic Entertainment Group, ceased trading in the country.

The Ministry of Finance also operates a system of 'block lists.' Any operator that does not have a Polish online gambling license is deemed unlicensed, despite holding valid licenses for other EU countries. Details of these websites are stored on a central register. If the Ministry of Finance places a website on the block list, they notify the internet service providers. The ISP is then compelled to block access to the site and automatically route traffic to a government information page.

Companies that are placed on the block list have no right of appeal. In addition, the Ministry of Finance does not have to advise any company that they have been placed on the register. It is a draconian set of rules that many people feel is over the top and ineffective. The laws only apply to traffic to websites from within Poland. There is nothing to stop online operators from setting up Polish language sites. These can then be accessed by the Polish diaspora, who live outside the national borders.

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