Poland struggling to exterminate illegal gaming

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Poland has been conducting efforts to eliminate illegal gambling for quite some time now, but the results are yet to appear. The illegal gambling market is alive and kicking, despite the country’s efforts. The Poland Gambling Act had a revision in 2017, which wanted to regulate the gambling market and push the illicit operators away. However, this task proved to be very challenging.

All this data was revised in a study conducted by the NIK, the Polish Supreme Audit Office. As a result, the efforts are pushed even further to oversee and regulate the market.

Between 2015 and 2018, the country’s online gaming industry almost doubled, from 1.27 billion dollars to 2.02 billion dollars, which includes both the regulated and the unlicensed operations. The good news is that the regulated gambling market is starting to gain ground in front of the illegal activities. 2018 was a good year for the gambling market in Poland, as the licenses taken by operators had an amazing 600% increase, translating in 989.8 million dollars.

Even if the numbers look promising in terms of licensed gambling in Poland, the illicit market remains strong, but it is not showing the same growth as the ‘legal’ part of the industry. A study conducted over the past 3 years showed that the online gambling operators without license accounted for 51% of the market. This segment also registered a 42% increase in the number of wagers.

The country made changes to the Gambling Act in 2017, imposing a 12% turnover tax on online gambling, the same one that was available for land-based gambling operators. This decision benefited Poland, as the country increased its gambling revenue from 418.42 million dollars to 484.75 million dollars between 2017 and 2018. However, the government was expecting more, but 2019 should come close.

On the other hand, Poland is not having the most correct practices in the gambling industry, and these facts affect the license demand for gambling operators. Poland has a government-owned online casino and lottery operator, named Totalizator Sportowy, which holds the monopoly on the online gambling market. Therefore, the competition is not encouraged and operators do not risk their success by applying for a license.

In addition, several big names have disappeared from the Polish market in recent years, such as Unibet, William Hill and bet365. There were various reasons for the companies’ withdrawals, but their absence definitely influenced the market and its forward momentum. Even if 14 sportsbook licenses haven been granted since, the disappearance of big market players was felt in the numbers.

The reduced return in Poland’s state gambling revenue has been influenced by a larger number of factors. And these have not been addressed correctly, and sometimes not at all. For example, the monopoly online operator Totalizator has been slow in introducing new online products, and customers turned their attention elsewhere. It was only in the last quarter of last year that this operator came through and rolled out the new products, this is the reason why 2019 is expected to be a better year in terms on revenues.

The Polish Supreme Audit Office declares there are still more things to do to fight the illicit gambling activities in the country. One of the actions can be enforcing the Ministry of Finance with the power to track the financial activities of companies and fight to eliminate illegal gambling operators this way. The Audit Office also wants the state to have more control over telecommunication companies regarding implications in illegal online gambling. These companies and payment providers are implicit in providing their customers access to illicit online gambling websites, as they do nothing regarding this.

The NIK believes that commercial companies should strive to act accordingly to the scope of laws and regulations, and by not doing so they can be susceptible to greater governmental intervention and control in order to enforce the law on both the company’s practices and the consumers.

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