Legal and regulatory frameworkiLegislation and jurisprudence
The legal issues applicable to gambling are mostly regulated in the Act. Criminal sanctions for illegal gambling are provided in the Penal Code and the Fiscal Penal Code.iiThe regulator
There is no separate specialised regulatory body designated to govern the gambling sector in Poland. The main responsibilities regarding gambling (such as issuing casino licences or betting permits) are granted to the minister in charge of public finance.14 Some less prominent powers (such as issuing permits for organising promotional lotteries, registering slot machines etc.), as well as enforcement measures are delegated to the National Revenue Administration (an administrative body responsible for issues connected with tax and customs duty) and its officers, such as the directors of revenue administration chambers and heads of tax offices.iiiRemote and land-based gambling
The Act does not distinguish between online and land-based gambling in detail. The Act simply includes provisions that apply specifically to forms of gambling conducted 'through the internet' – a term that is not defined further. Audiotex lotteries, which require a phone call or an SMS message to participate, are also a form of remote gambling, but these may not be conducted online.
Most forms of online gambling in Poland are either prohibited or restricted to state monopoly. The only exceptions are betting and conducting promotional lotteries, which can be held online, but each of them requires a prior permit.ivLand-based gambling
In general, gambling may only take place in specific locations as indicated in a relevant licence or permit. There are different restrictions regarding each type of venue.
Casinos are venues where the following games may be played: cylindrical games (roulette), dice games, card games and slot machine games.15 Casinos are limited in number. Only one casino can operate in a single location (village or city) of up to 250,000 inhabitants. For cities of more than 250,000 inhabitants, the maximum number of casinos is increased by one per each 250,000 inhabitants (two casinos are available for up to 500,000 inhabitants, three casinos are available for up to 750,000 inhabitants and so on), but there cannot be more than one casino per total population of 650,000 inhabitants in a single province.16 As at April 2020, there were 51 casino licences active in Poland.
Cash bingo is only allowed in bingo halls.17 These are also limited in number, similar to casinos, but with the threshold of one bingo hall per 100,000 inhabitants, with a maximum of one per 300,000 in a province.18 In practice, no bingo halls currently operate in Poland.
Betting shops are entitled to offer two forms of betting: totalisator systems and bookmaking. There is no limitation on the number of betting shops in Poland, and as at April 2021, 13 land-based betting permits were in force, although some operators were inactive.
Slot machine gaming is restricted to casinos (privately operated), and slot machine parlours operated by Totalizator Sportowy. There is a limitation on the number of slot machines operating in slot machine parlours: there can be no more than one per each 1,000 of inhabitants in one district.19 These establishments must be located at least 100 metres from other gaming venues, as well as schools, churches, etc. According to the operator's annual report, there were approximately 520 slot machine parlours operating across Poland by the end of 2020. In addition, on the Polish market there are still numerous unlicensed, privately owned slot machine parlours that the authorities are trying to close down, with stricter penalties introduced against their operators in 2017.
Venues that sell national lottery and other state-run number games tickets are not strictly regulated in the Act. In practice, they are operated by private entities acting as agents of the state-owned company, usually at newsagents or other similar locations. There are no restrictions on their number.vRemote gambling
Both betting and promotional lotteries (the only forms of online gambling available for private entities to organise) require obtaining a prior permit to be organised. It is effectively impossible to pursue these operations from abroad, because of the requirement to establish either a branch office or a representative in Poland (for companies incorporated in the European Economic Area (EEA)) or a Polish company (for other entities).20
For betting, all data related to operations is required to be located within the EEA, with remote 24/7 access provided for tax authorities.21 A remote betting permit is separate from a land-based one, therefore operators who wish to offer both forms of betting have to obtain two permits (a basic betting licence and a separate licence for each website they want to use for online betting).
The Act does not distinguish between regulations on land-based and online promotional lotteries. For betting, most provisions apply to its both forms, with some of them applicable only to online or land-based forms because of their nature. Online betting operators are also required to adopt a responsible gaming policy.
The state-owned company Totalizator Sportowy operates Total Casino, the only legal online casino in Poland. Private operators are not allowed to conduct casino-style games online. Totalizator Sportowy also sells lottery tickets online.viAncillary matters
Certain activity related to gambling, while not constituting gambling per se, is also regulated in the Act. In particular, certain restrictions apply to manufacturing or owning slot machines. Their manufacturers are required to notify the tax authorities of their scope of business, and keep records of the machines they produce. Moreover, every slot machine has to be registered with the tax authorities before being deployed. Performing technical inspections for the purpose of registration is restricted to entities authorised by the minister in charge of public finance. Similarly, it is also required to register equipment used for gaming, such as randomising devices.22
Other types of gambling equipment are not directly regulated in the Act. Businesses such as gambling software developers do not need to obtain any specific licences.Training
Natural persons are required to undergo training in order to perform some specific tasks related to gambling operations. Training is required for persons directly involved in gambling operations (such as croupiers) as well as supervisors of gambling games, such as directors of gambling venues. Some tasks, notably assisting customers in making bets in a betting shop, are exempt from this requirement. Training may be held internally by a gambling operator or an external training facility; it covers gambling regulations and terms and conditions of games, and has to be repeated after three years.23viiFinancial payment mechanisms
Online gambling operators may only conduct payment transactions using specific types of providers, namely:
- domestic banks;
- branches of a foreign bank;
- credit institutions;
- e-money institutions;
- payment institutions; and
- savings and credit unions.
Online betting operators may not accept payments directly in bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies, but some e-money institutions that are permitted to operate on the Polish market offer the ability to buy and sell cryptocurrencies. Thus, it is possible to pay for a bet in Poland using bitcoin, but not directly.
Gambling games, with the exception of promotional lotteries, are subject to a gambling tax.30 Gambling tax is also applicable to games held by the state monopoly. Different tax rates are used for different games, ranging from 2.5 per cent (for betting on sports competitions by animals) to 50 per cent (for most casino games and slot machines). The taxation base also varies between games, but in most cases the tax is calculated against turnover from a game. This is often criticised as one of the main reasons that Polish online betting operators are unable to compete with offshore entities, as currently the tax (12 per cent of turnover) significantly reduces winnings.
Gambling tax is separate from income tax (including corporation income tax). Income tax is also applicable to gambling operators – with the exception of income from organising raffle lotteries and raffle bingo, which is exempt from income tax as it may only be used for charitable purposes. Games subject to gambling tax are exempt from VAT.
Gambling tax does not apply to participants, with the exception of winnings from poker tournaments (in this case, the 25 per cent tax is deducted from winnings by the tournament organiser). Winnings in number games, cash lotteries, telebingo, betting, promotional lotteries, audiotex lotteries, and raffle lotteries are subject to participants' income tax of 10 per cent if they exceed 2,280 zlotys, while winnings in slot machines, card games, dice, roulette, and bingo are exempt from tax.