General legal framework

Legal definition of ‘gambling’

What are the legal elements required for an activity to be regarded as gambling?

In general, there are four categories of activities that are considered ‘gambling games’ as defined by gambling laws in Poland:

 

  • games of chance;
  • betting;
  • card games; and
  • slot machine games.

 

Each category features specific gambling games, and there are specific criteria that define each of these in more detail.

For example, consideration (purchasing a product, service or another proof of participation in the game) is explicitly required to participate in a ‘promotional lottery’ – a popular subtype of games of chance used for prize draws for promotional purposes.

As a rule, games of skill are not considered gambling games. Authorities and courts in Poland usually present a strict approach when it comes to games combining elements of chance and skill, claiming that even if just a part of the game (eg, one of its stages) is determined by chance, the result of the game is determined by chance.

Only games that offer in-cash or in-kind prizes are gambling games. When there is no prize or the prize has no value, such a game is outside the scope of gambling regulations. Slot machine games are an exception to this rule. If they are ‘organised for commercial purposes’, and ‘are random’, these are still considered slot machine games even if the player cannot win any prize of value. Additional playtime is also treated as a prize when classifying a game like a slot machine. Prizes that do not have any value by themselves but that may be exchanged for cash or otherwise purchased for cash (such as tradeable in-game items) are also likely to be considered as being of value. At the same time, the Polish regulator is currently reluctant to treat 'loot boxes' as gambling, claiming that the gambling laws provide an exhaustive list of gambling games, and loot boxes are not explicitly included there.

Remote activity

With respect to remote or other cross-border activity, where is the wager deemed to take place?

Polish law does not explicitly address this issue. In general, Polish law applies to gambling activity if one or more of the below conditions occur:

 

  • the game is organised within Poland;
  • the participant is located in Poland; or
  • the game is aimed at participants in Poland (especially by being available in Polish or being advertised in Poland).

 

In practice, the player’s location is taken into account since participating in a ‘foreign’ (ie, offshore) gambling game while being located in Poland is a crime.

It is not possible to offer gambling products remotely or on a cross-border basis without first obtaining a relevant Polish licence for such activity.

Age restrictions

What is the minimum age for participating in lawful gambling?

The minimum age for participating in all gambling games is 18, except for promotional lotteries and raffle lotteries. If an employee of a gambling facility suspects that a player may be underage, he or she may demand the player’s personal identification. Remote gambling operators are required to introduce measures to verify the participant’s age.

Penalties

What are the penalties for offering unlawful gambling?

Offering unlawful gambling violates administrative law and, at the same time, is a fiscal crime in Poland. As a result, the offender may face liability under each of the two sets of regulations or both.

Under administrative liability, the main penalty for offering gambling games without the required licence or permit, or without prior notification to authorities (one of these is required for any gambling game) is a fine of five times the fee for obtaining a licence for the relevant type of game (for most games), 100,000 zlotys for each slot machine and up to 10,000 zlotys for games that only require prior notification. The fine is imposed by a decision of the head of the relevant customs and tax control office against the entity (company) involved in the offence, but additional fines of up to 100,000 zlotys may also be imposed against the entity’s directors.

Gambling operators who hold a licence or permit, or who have notified the authorities of the game, but offer gambling games that violate the terms of their licence, permit or notification, or the terms and conditions of specific games are also subject to administrative fines.

Under fiscal criminal liability, the sanction for offering unlicensed gambling is imprisonment of up to three years, a fine, or both.

In fiscal criminal cases, the fine is calculated by multiplying a ‘day-fine unit’ (calculated by the court as a fraction of the minimum monthly wage, taking into account the offender’s earnings and other personal circumstances. A single unit may be between approximately 87 and 1 million zlotys) by the number of such units as indicated by the court, taking into account the severity of the crime. A fine for conducting unlicensed gambling operations may be between 10 and 720 units.

Criminal liability only applies to natural persons, not companies. However, an additional fine of up to 5 million zlotys, or 3 per cent of annual turnover, whichever is lower, may be imposed on a company in case of final conviction of its employee, based on the Act on Criminal Liability of Collective Entities for Punishable Offences.

Does the law penalise the gambler directly for participating in unlawful gambling?

Yes, participation in unlawful gambling (either activity that is against the law or against the terms of a particular gambling licence or permit) is a fiscal criminal offence, punishable by a fine of up to 120 units.

Moreover, participating in a gambling game organised without a required licence, permit or notification is subject to an administrative fine of 100 per cent of the winnings. Participants of promotional lotteries, audiotex lotteries (a type of lottery in which participants participate via premium-rate short message service messages or calls), raffle lotteries and raffle bingo are exempt from this penalty.

Social and non-profit gambling

Are there exceptions for social gambling, or charitable or non-profit gambling?

There are no explicit exceptions for social gambling in Poland, thus it is subject to the same rules as ‘ordinary’ gambling. As long as prizes of value are involved, then a licence, permit or prior notification is required, depending on the type of game, and when there are no prizes of value, then the game is likely to fall outside the scope of gambling regulations. In a recent judgment, the Provincial Administrative Court in Łódź (Case No. III SA/Łd 950/18) declared that a free prize draw held on Facebook should not be considered a promotional lottery, and revoked the authority’s decision fining the promoter for carrying it out without a permit. This judgment is not final.

There are no explicit exceptions for charitable gambling, which is also subject to gambling laws. Certain gambling games, namely raffle lotteries and raffle bingo, may only be organised for charitable purposes. Because of this, the formal requirements concerning these games are less rigorous; for instance, obtaining a permit is not required in most cases because only prior notification is needed.

Regulatory authorities

What entity regulates land-based and remote gambling, and what are the regulator’s powers?

In Poland, there is no specialised regulatory body governing the gambling sector. The powers normally attributed to such bodies are mostly granted to the minister in charge of public finance, the National Revenue Administration and its executives of various degrees of seniority:

 

  • the directors of revenue administration regional offices;
  • heads of customs and tax control offices; and
  • heads of tax offices.

 

The National Revenue Administration is responsible for tax and customs administration and control.

The minister is mainly responsible for granting licences for casinos, and permits for bingo saloons and betting operators, issuing individual interpretations concerning classifying games as specific gambling games and maintaining a register of unlicensed gambling websites. The minister is also allowed to issue secondary regulations concerning technical aspects of organising gambling games, such as the detailed rules on using closed-circuit television in gambling venues, or inspecting slot machines.

Other powers, including issuing gambling permits for the remaining games, and enforcement measures (including issuing administrative fines for offering unlicensed gambling) are granted to officers of the National Revenue Administration.

Anti-money-laundering regulations

Are gambling licensees considered financial institutions for purposes of anti-money-laundering and similar financial services regulatory requirements or are they otherwise subject to such requirements?

In most cases, gambling operators are subject to anti-money laundering (AML) regulations. As ‘obliged entities’ within the meaning of AML laws, they are required, for example, to report and store data on all transactions above €15,000 to the General Inspector of Financial Information. Moreover, compliance with AML regulations is a prerequisite for applying for a gambling licence or permit, and the licence or permit is revoked when an officer of the operator is convicted of an AML-related crime.

Land-based gambling

Types

What types of land-based gambling are permitted in your jurisdiction, and is gambling regulated at a national or subnational level?

Gambling in Poland is regulated at a national level. The main legal act concerning the gambling sector is the Act of 19 November 2009 on Gambling Games (the Gambling Act). The Gambling Act defines several types of gambling games that are permitted in land-based form, grouped into four categories:

 

  • games of chance: including casino-style games (eg, dice and roulette), and several variants of bingo, lotteries and ‘number games’;
  • betting: totalisator systems and bookmaking;
  • card games: blackjack, poker and baccarat; and
  • slot machine games.

 

A state-owned company is exclusively allowed to offer certain games, namely:

 

  • ‘number games’ (random number lotteries such as Lotto, a de facto national lottery in Poland);
  • cash lotteries;
  • telebingo (a variant of bingo playable with the use of television, currently not organised in Poland); and
  • slot machine gaming outside of casinos.

 

The monopoly is granted to the state-owned company Totalizator Sportowy sp z o.o.

Other land-based gambling games may be offered by private entities and include:

 

  • running casinos (where card games, roulette, and dice may be played and where slot machines may operate);
  • bingo saloons;
  • betting;
  • promotional lotteries (lotteries where buying certain goods or services is required to participate); and
  • raffle bingo and raffle lotteries (the last two may only be organised for charitable purposes).

 

Poker tournaments may be organised after notifying the director of a revenue administration regional office. In most cases, only a casino licence holder may organise them. If the tournament is not organised by a casino, it may only offer in-kind prizes of minor value (the total value of prizes may not exceed 50 per cent of the ‘base amount’, which in 2020 is 2,570.26 zlotys (a base amount is a sum based on average monthly salary in Poland in the previous year. For 2020, 100 per cent of the base amount is 5,140.74 zlotys). Poker may also be played in casinos against the casino – no notification is then required.

Establishment licensing

Please describe the licensing criteria to operate land-based gambling of each type or classification. Does your jurisdiction limit the number of available licences?

In general, providing any gambling games by private operators requires obtaining a licence, for casinos, or a permit, for betting operators, bingo saloons, and most lotteries. Certain games, such as poker tournaments, only require notifying the relevant authorities in advance.

The licensing process requires filing an application to the relevant authority – the minister in charge of public finance or the director of a revenue administration regional office, depending on the type of game.

The details of the requirements vary from game to game, but in general, the main elements of each application include:

  • the applicant’s details;
  • details of the planned operation (starting date or duration, place and so on);
  • certificates or declarations of no tax, customs duty or social security arrears;
  • documents proving the legality of the applicant’s financial resources;
  • an economic and financial study concerning the investment and expected profitability (for casinos, bingo saloons and betting operators);
  • a certificate or affidavit confirming that the applicant’s operation is compliant with anti-money laundering and financing of terrorism regulations (for casinos, bingo saloons and betting operators);
  • documents proving the title to use the premises intended for gambling (for casinos and bingo saloons) or permission by the proprietor of such premises to locate a betting shop there (for betting operators);
  • the applicant’s financial statement for the previous turnover year; and
  • drafts of terms and conditions of the games, which have to be approved by the regulator.

Moreover, there are requirements concerning the characteristics of companies operating in the gambling sector. For instance, a minimum share capital of 2 million zlotys is required for a betting operator.

Licences and permits are granted if the applicant meets the requirements of the Gambling Act. In practice, as there are several such requirements, and many of them are not precise, this allows their evaluation at the authorities’ discretion.

There are limitations concerning the number of casinos and bingo saloons throughout Poland. Only one casino can operate in a single location (eg, a village or city) of up to 250,000 inhabitants. The limit is increased by one each additional 250,000 inhabitants, and there may not be more than one casino per 650,000 inhabitants in a single province. Similar regulations concern bingo saloons, but with the thresholds being 100,000 inhabitants per one saloon and 300,000 per province, respectively. There are currently no bingo saloons operating in Poland.

If there is more than one application for a licence or permit subject to limitations, a public tender is organised.

There are also limitations concerning the number of slot machines in slot machine parlours (no more than one machine per every 1,000 inhabitants in one district, but this market is subject to state monopoly). Other gambling permits are not limited in number.

Obtaining a licence requires payment of a fee, calculated as a percentage of a ‘base amount’ – a sum based on average monthly salary in Poland in the previous year. For 2020, 100 per cent of the base amount is 5,140.74 zlotys. The fees are as follows:

 

  • casino licence: 32,000 per cent of the base amount (‭1,645,036.8‬0 zlotys for 2020);‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬
  • bingo saloon permit: 5,500 per cent of the base amount (‭282,740.7‬0 zlotys for 2020);‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬
  • betting permit: 2,000 per cent of the base amount (‭102,814.8‬0 zlotys for 2020), plus 50 per cent of the base amount (2,570.26 zlotys) per each bet-making point;‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬
  • raffle lotteries and raffle bingo: 100 per cent of the base amount (5,140.74 zlotys for 2020), or if a game is only held within one province, 50 per cent of the base amount (2,570.26 zlotys for 2020); and
  • promotional lotteries and audiotex lotteries: 10 per cent of the total value of prizes, but not less than 50 per cent of the base amount (2,570.26 zlotys for 2020).

 

For some games, gambling operators are also required to provide a guarantee, in the form of a bank or insurance guarantee or by payment of a deposit. For instance, for casino operators, the guarantee sum is 1.2 million zlotys. The guarantee is intended to secure payment of taxes and cover players’ claims.

Licences and permits concerning casinos, bingo saloons and betting, are valid for six years and may be extended by another six years. Permits concerning other gambling games are granted for the period of a given game, but no longer than two years.

Director, officer and owner licensing

Must individual directors, officers or owners of licensees also be licensed or reviewed for suitability?

For companies operating casinos, bingo saloons, betting shops and audiotex lotteries, the members of their managing boards, as well as supervisory boards or shareholders holding more than 10 per cent of the share capital of such companies, may not, inter alia:

 

  • be convicted of a crime;
  • have their gambling licence or permit (or for one of the companies they acted for) revoked; or
  • raise ‘justified concerns’ about state security, public order, the security of the economic interests of the state, as well as concerns from the perspective of the regulations on combating money laundering or financing of terrorism.

 

There are no individual licences issued for directors, officers or owners of licensees, but such persons, as well as those directly conducting games (such as croupiers), are required to undergo training on gambling regulations and terms and conditions of games.

Location

May a gambling location be part of a resort, restaurant or other multi-purpose location? What limitations apply?

There are no laws in Poland that specifically address this issue. In general, playing casino games and betting may only occur in casinos and betting shops, respectively. In practice, casinos are often located on the premises of hotels because having the casino located there is preferred in tenders. Still, the place used for gambling is separated from the rest of the hotel because of requirements imposed specifically on casinos, such as the obligation to record the personal details of each participant.

Casino development

What considerations arise in developing a casino resort project that are not typical to other resort development?

A local county council has to approve the location of a casino. Such approval is among the prerequisites required to apply for a casino licence.

While applying for a casino licence or a bingo saloon or betting permit, the applicant is required to present documents proving its title to the premises intended for gambling. For betting shops, permission in writing by the proprietor of such premises is required.

There are certain requirements as to the minimal share capital of the operator running a casino in Poland and the amount for which a bank guarantee has to be provided by such operator when applying for a licence, and also the legality of financing of such operator needs to be proven in the application procedure.

Passive/institutional ownership

Are there provisions for passive or institutional ownership that allow for exemption or modification of licensing requirements?

Licences or permits are not alienable, unless the company holding it is subject to a merger or acquisition. Therefore, ownership of shares does not have an impact on licensing requirements.

Responsible gambling

What responsible gambling obligations apply to licensees?

Since April 2017, the state-owned operator concerning slot machines and all online gambling operators in Poland is obliged to implement internal responsible gambling policies that include, among other measures, providing information on risks related to participation in gambling and institutions assisting persons with gambling addiction problems, as well as enforcing the prohibition of the participation of minors in gambling and further gambling once the financial resources of a participant were exhausted (the prohibition of gambling ‘on credit’).

Criminal courts may bar individuals from participating in gambling, but this measure may only be applied in the case of a conviction connected with organising or participating in illegal gambling. No such measures are available as remedies for gambling addiction.

Taxes

What type of tax and what tax rate applies to each form of lawful land-based gambling activity?

Most gambling games are subject to gambling tax, which the operators of such games are obliged to pay. Organising promotional lotteries, poker tournaments and minor raffle bingo and raffle lotteries are not subject to this tax. For poker tournaments, the participants are obliged to pay the tax, but this is deducted from winnings and settled by the organiser of the tournament.

The tax rates and bases are different for each game:

 

Game

Tax rate

Tax base

Raffle lottery

10%

Earnings from the sale of lots

Cash lottery

15%

Earnings from the sale of lots

Telebingo

25%

Earnings from the sale of lots

Audiotex lottery

25%

Organiser’s revenue from the game

Number game

20%

Sum of wages paid by participants

Sports betting for the competition of animals (if the permit covers only such type of betting)

2.5%

Sum of wages paid by participants

Other forms of betting

12%

Sum of wages paid by participants

Cash bingo

25%

The nominal value of cards bought by the organiser

Raffle bingo

10%

The nominal value of cards used for the game

Roulette, dice, card games (except poker tournaments)

50%

Difference between the sum of stakes paid and the sum of winnings paid to winners

Poker tournament

25%

Winnings minus registration fee

Slot machine

50%

Difference between the sum of stakes paid and the sum of winnings

 

In most cases, winnings from gambling games of over 2,280 zlotys are subject to personal income tax of 10 per cent. Exceptions to this rule include winnings from slot machines, casino games, cash bingo, and raffle bingo, which are exempt from personal income tax.

Remote gambling

Types

Is remote gambling permitted and, if so, what types?

Most forms of online gambling are restricted to state monopoly. The state-owned operator is exclusively allowed to run an online casino (Total Casino), which offers online equivalents of slot machine games, card games and roulettes.

The only forms of remote gambling allowed for private operators are betting and promotional lotteries. The Gambling Act does not explicitly address the issue of mobile betting. A wider term of betting ‘via the internet network’ is used. In practice, licensed betting operators offer betting on their websites and via mobile apps. Betting websites are required to use the ‘.pl’ domain name.

Licensing

What are the criteria for obtaining a licence to operate remote gambling?

A separate permit is required to conduct online betting. The criteria and procedure for obtaining such permit are very similar to those of land-based betting.

For online betting using one website, the fee for obtaining a permit is 9,000 per cent of the base amount (462,666.6‬0 zlotys in 2020), and the required guarantee is 480,000 zlotys.

How do the licensing criteria for remote gambling operators differ from those applicable to land-based operators?

The main criteria and requirements are similar to those of land-based gambling or promotional lottery. An online betting application must address certain matters specific to its operations, such as outlining the age verification measures to be used on the website.

Each online betting website is required to make its database archive remotely accessible for the tax authorities.

There are no limits on the number of online betting or promotional lottery operators.

Cross-border gambling

May operators located in other countries offer internet gambling to consumers in your jurisdiction without obtaining a licence there?

Offshore gambling operators may not offer gambling to Polish consumers without first obtaining a relevant licence in Poland, and it is prohibited for players located in Poland to participate in offshore gambling.

The minister in charge of public finance maintains a register of unlicensed gambling websites. Such ‘blacklisted’ websites are blocked by Polish internet service providers, and Polish payment service providers may not provide their services on them.

May operators licensed in your jurisdiction offer internet gambling to consumers in other countries?

Gambling permits are valid in Poland only, as Poland has no authority over other countries. The validity of Polish online gambling permits abroad is subject to the laws of other countries, but it would be unusual for such other countries to honour those.

Taxes

What tax rate applies to each form of remote gambling?

The tax rates and bases for remote gambling games are the same as their land-based equivalents. For online betting, the gambling tax is 12 per cent of the sum of wages paid by participants, and promotional lotteries are not subject to gambling tax. Winnings of more than 2,280 zlotys are subject to 10 per cent personal income tax, with certain exemptions.

Intellectual property

Patents

Are gambling games – land-based or remote – patentable in your jurisdiction?

According to the Polish Industrial Property Law, the rules and mechanics of games are not considered as patentable inventions. Therefore, it is not possible to patent a gambling game, neither a land-based or remote one. If a device used to play the game features some innovative machinery, the device may be patentable, but patent protection would not apply to the game itself.

Moreover, certain aspects of gambling games may be protected by other means, such as trade marks or copyrights, but this protection would not cover the basic game mechanics.

Trademarks

Are there limitations on how brands, logos or other types of marks may be used in promoting gambling games?

Certain financial services (such as loans) may not be advertised on online betting websites. It is not prohibited to use brands or logos of third parties while promoting gambling games, as long as the owner of the respective marks has agreed to it, and provided that such form of promotion is allowed, as certain goods or services may not be advertised. The restrictions concerning the advertising of gambling may also apply.

Advertising

Restrictions

What types of restrictions apply to advertising gambling games?

Advertising of casino games and betting, which are the main gambling sectors where private entities may operate, is severely restricted.

Casino games may only be advertised on the premises of a casino or outside its building. It is prohibited to advertise casino games by other means, such as by direct marketing or outdoor media. Advertising non-gambling goods or services whose name or logo resembles casino games, slot machines or betting is also considered advertising of gambling, and is prohibited as a rule.

Following an amendment introduced to the Gambling Act in 2017, licensed betting operators are allowed to advertise, with restrictions concerning content and placement of ads.

Restrictions regarding content of betting ads include the prohibition of, inter alia, featuring minors, encouraging paying higher stakes as means of increasing one’s chances of winning, or invoking associations between betting and sexual attractiveness, relaxation, work or personal success. Betting advertisements are required to feature warnings on the risks of gambling and consequences of illegal gambling, and a reference to the operator’s permit.

Betting advertisements may not be shown on television, cinemas or theatres after 6am and before 10pm, with the exception of sports transmissions of events sponsored by betting operators, which may be accompanied by betting ads.

Advertising of betting is also prohibited on newspaper and magazine covers, in children’s press and in ‘public places’, namely outdoor media. The latter is permitted only in events sponsored by betting operators.

Another form of advertising permitted for betting operators is ‘informing about sponsorship’, in the form of presenting their names or other forms of identification in messages informing that they sponsor particular entities. Such communication is limited – it may not feature any other content of a promotional nature, such as advertising slogans.

Other games available for private operators, mainly promotional and audiotex lotteries, may be freely advertised.

Suppliers

Licensing

What types of suppliers to gambling operators require licences?

There are restrictions concerning manufacturing, importing and repairing slot machines, gaming devices (devices that enable playing a gambling game or affect its outcome, such as ‘linked jackpot’ systems for slot machines) and randomising devices. Such operations do not require a gambling licence per se but require authorisation or certification.

Importantly, activities directly related to providing gambling services as such may not be entrusted to third parties unless the Gambling Act specifically allows it. The main exception to this involves the possibility of entrusting an agent with distributing lots, accepting bets or prize payouts.

Registration

If licensing is not required, is there a registration or other process suppliers are subject to, and what triggers that process?

Manufacturers and distributors of slot machines are required to notify their scope of operations to the director of the relevant revenue administration regional office, and this must be done before commencing such operations. They also have to keep records of the slot machines they produce and store, and make such records available for the authorities.

Only entities holding an authorisation issued by the minister in charge of public finance are allowed to perform technical inspections of slot machines, gaming devices, and randomising devices. Such inspections may be ordered by the head of the customs and tax control office if there are concerns whether the slot machine complies with regulations.

Possession of a slot machine is prohibited for everyone except authorised entities, such as casinos, authorised technical inspectors, or public authorities.

Slot machines, gaming devices and randomising devices have to be registered by the head of a relevant customs and tax control office before being used, but this obligation concerns entities operating these machines or devices. Operating them without registration is prohibited under the penalty of a fine of up to 200,000 zlotys and criminal liability.

Entities that operate such machines or devices have to notify the authorities if they plan to move them to a different location or withdraw them from use, or in the case of their destruction or theft.

Labour and employment

Wage and hour rules

Are there particular rules governing hours and wage treatment for casino employees?

No, there are no particular rules governing working hours and salaries of casino employees – the general statutory rules applicable to all employees apply in this respect. Casino employees are entitled to overtime pay or additional time off in accordance with the Labour Code. Although some employees’ activities such as changing clothes or security screenings are not, strictly speaking, performing work, since the employee remains at the employer’s disposal at that time (ie, cannot freely manage his or her time), this is considered paid working time. Some employers oblige their employees to show up to work 10 to 15 minutes earlier so that at the agreed hour of starting work they are at their working posts ready to perform their duties, but according to the Polish State Labour Inspection, this is not admissible and any such earlier attendance may result in overtime work.

Collective labour

Must casino employees be members of labour unions or similar organisations?

No, there is no such requirement. Labour union membership is voluntary and neither the employer nor the labour union can force the employee to become its member. Labour unions are relatively rare in privately owned enterprises.

Acquisitions and changes of control

Change of control

How are licensee changes of control, and substantial changes in shareholdings of licensees, addressed?

The requirement of obtaining explicit regulatory approvals of such changes was lifted in 2015, when the notification obligation was introduced to the Gambling Act instead.

Any major change in the shareholder structure of a company operating casinos, bingo saloons, slot machine parlours, or a betting operator has to be notified to the minister in charge of public finance. This concerns any change that would exceed 10 per cent, 20 per cent, 30 per cent, 40 per cent, 50 per cent, 60 per cent, 70 per cent, 80 per cent or 90 per cent of the total share in capital or votes on the general meeting of shareholders. The notification must include information on the source of funds used to acquire the shares and proof of their legality (such as a company’s financial statement). For natural persons, a certificate of clean criminal record is also required.

Moreover, changes in the board, supervisory board or the auditing committee of such entities also have to be notified, along with a certificate of clean criminal record of such person.

Bankruptcy

How are gambling licences treated in bankruptcy?

Gambling licences or permits may only be acquired by the purchase of the enterprise of the bankrupt, as they are not alienable by themselves. This makes them unfit as means of creditors’ security. No regulatory approval is required for acquiring the enterprise of the bankrupt from the gambling sector.

Quasi-gambling

Regulation

How are forms of ‘quasi-gambling’ regulated? Are any treated as ‘gambling’, and what triggers such treatment?

Polish law does not recognise any forms of ‘quasi-gambling’ – a particular endeavour may either be considered as a form of gambling (thus regulated by the Gambling Act) or a non-gambling activity not subject to the Gambling Act. Skill games (contests) are outside of the scope of gambling, as long as they do not feature elements of chance. Fantasy sports are often treated as skill-based contests, although it may be argued that, to an extent, they resemble betting. In practice, the rules of a particular fantasy sports game would have to be analysed in each case.

There are cases where authorities are trying to prosecute promoters of non-gambling games. The Provincial Administrative Court in Lodz has considered a case where an owner of a store was fined for organising a promotional lottery on Facebook. The store owner did not require purchasing any goods to participate in the lottery (which is one of the prerequisites for a promotional lottery) – it only required liking, commenting on and sharing the store's post. Still, the authorities found that this was a promotional lottery, for which holding an official permit is required. The court dismissed the authority's claims, making it clear that if there is no requirement to make a purchase, then the promotion may not be considered a promotional lottery. The judgment is not final.

Social games that do not feature prizes of value are also not considered gambling, even if they are random.

Licensing

Does your jurisdiction license quasi-gambling operators?

Because Polish law does not distinguish any forms of ‘quasi-gambling’, no such licences are available.

Other restrictions

Does your jurisdiction impose other restrictions on the conduct of quasi-gambling activity, including restrictions on advertising, age of participation, limitations on prizes, etc?

There are no specific restrictions concerning non-gambling games, except for generally applicable laws such as consumer protection regulations, or sector-specific laws (such as restrictions on advertising of certain goods or services, which may also prohibit or limit organising contests related to them).

Litigation

Recent cases

What, if any, significant litigation involving the gambling or quasi-gambling sectors has your jurisdiction seen in recent years?

When blocking of offshore gambling websites was introduced in 2017, some offshore operators began contesting these measures. The Minister of Finance has so far rejected all such complaints, and appeals against the Minister's decisions have already reached administrative courts. The complaints mostly argue that the blacklisting measure is a restriction of freedom to provide services in the European Union. So far, operators have been unsuccessful in persuading the courts to remove their websites from the blacklist, nor to submit prejudicial questions related to the matter to the Court of Justice of the European Union. The courts have found that blacklisting is a justified measure to limit illegal gambling, although several similar cases are still pending.

In 2020, the government is planning to introduce an amendment to the Gambling Act intended to make blacklisting quicker, with the intention for it to be more effective (as offshore operators keep opening up new websites after old ones are blacklisted).

Update and trends

Key developments of the past year

Highlight any noteworthy developments or trends in the gambling or quasi-gambling sectors (legal or business) and their potential implications.

The most prominent gambling sector in Poland is betting, and betting operators are currently enjoying a period of impressive business growth. The state treasury's income from gambling tax, which is directly related to operators' turnover, in 2019 was double that of 2017. Several new operators have entered the market in 2019, including a major international brand Betclic.In the near future, it is expected that market competition will increase. Still, the Polish gambling market remains relatively small compared to major European ones. It is often pointed out that Poland will not join the developed gambling markets unless the gambling tax system receives an overhaul, which operators keep lobbying for. In February 2020, the Polish Chamber of Commerce for the Entertainment and Bookmaking Industry published a report where it proposed changing the gambling tax base to gross gambling revenue. However, such changes are unlikely to take place soon.

Totalizator Sportowy – the state-owned company responsible for the national lottery – is actively expanding its scope of operations. After launching its online casino in December 2018, it plans to introduce the 'live casino' functionality in 2020. As some online betting operators have recently launched the ability to bet on results of simulated card games, it seems that the state-owned company and private operators will now compete for similar customers.

The condition of the market in 2020 will most likely be linked to the spread of the covid-19 virus outbreak. It seems that the pandemic will hurt the gaming industry in Poland, where major sports events have been cancelled and brick and mortar casinos and bookmaking points closed, even though online betting operators are trying to make up for their losses by promoting their e-sports and virtual events offers, as well as introducing betting on non-sports events. The long-term effects of these are yet to be observed and depend on how long these circumstances will continue.

In 2020, an amendment to the Gambling Act is expected to come into force. Its main focus is to revise the procedure of entering the unlicensed gambling websites into the blacklist, to speed up this process. According to the first draft of the amendment bill, it will no longer be required for an unlicensed website to be 'addressed' to the audience in Poland – instead, it will suffice if the website is 'available' from the territory of Poland. This bill shows that the government intends to continue and tighten the enforcement of blacklisting measures in 2020.