Gambling in Poland is regulated by the Act of 19 November 2009 on Gambling Games (unified text in Journal of Laws of 2016, item 471). The Gambling Law imposes strict rules on gambling and sets harsh requirements for gambling operators, with severe penalties for their violation. The Polish regulations on gambling are considered to be among the most restrictive in Europe.

The Gambling Law does not only regulate gambling products per se, such as lotteries, bingo or casino games, but also betting (zakłady wzajemne). 


A significant new amendment to the Act (the "Amendment") was adopted by the Polish Parliament on 15 December 2016 and signed into law by the President on 28 December 2016. The final text of the Amendment was officially published in the Journal of Laws on 13 January 2017 (available here: http://dziennikustaw.gov.pl/DU/2017/88/1  unfortunately only in Polish – Poland does not in principle provide official translations of its laws to English).


The provisions of the Amendment will enter into force on 1 April 2017, with the exception of rules on website and payment blocking, which will enter into force on 1 July 2017.


The Amendment will significantly alter the Polish gambling games market. The main changes introduced are:


Other key changes are described below:

Website and payment blocking in relation to unlicensed online gambling


Organising and participation in unlicensed gambling (in particular any form of foreign gambling offered by operators not holding a valid Polish licence) constitutes a crime in Poland. Nevertheless, many foreign gambling websites remain popular in Poland although they are formally unlawful. As an additional measure to combat this, the Amendment introduces a publicly accessible register of unlicensed websites "addressed to customers in the territory of Republic of Poland" which are used for gambling but their operators are unlicensed in Poland. The register will in particular target websites that are available in the Polish language or advertised in Poland. 


The Minister of Finance will manage the register and decide, ex officio and at his own discretion, that a specific website should be blacklisted.


The entry into the register may be appealed by filing an objection (sprzeciw) to the Minister. The Amendment does not require informing the owner of the website of the fact of entry of his website in the register. Subsequently the decision on an objection may be appealed to administrative court.


ISPs will be required to block access to blacklisted websites and reroute users who wish to visit a blacklisted website to a governmental site providing information on sanctions for taking part in illegal gambling within 48 hours from entry in the register.


The Amendment also introduces a payment blocking measure. Payment service providers may not provide payment services on the websites entered into the register. If they provide such services when such website is blacklisted, they are obliged to terminate providing their services within 30 days from entry in the register.


Failure to comply with these regulations by ISPs or payment service providers may result in imposing an administrative fine of up to PLN 250,000 (approx. EUR 58,000). In addition, there are means for regulatory authorities to impose additional sanctions for non-compliance with the law, by general provisions of sectorial legislation, such as withdrawing a license for providing payment services.


Casino-style games online


The only form of online gambling services currently legal in Poland is online betting. The Amendment will allow providing also casino-style games online, however subject to monopoly by a state-owned operator (Totalizator Sportowy Sp. z o.o.). 


The above does not include card games, such as poker, which will remain available only in land-based form. 


Private operators will only be allowed to provide betting and promotional lotteries online.


Major changes in relation to slot machine gaming


Slot machines are currently explicitly allowed only in casinos. However, thousands of illegal slot machine parlours continue to operate throughout Poland despite being effectively banned in 2009, due to ambiguity of the law.


The Amendment will introduce slot machine parlours in a new form. They will be exclusively operated by a state-owned operator (Totalizator Sportowy Sp. z o.o.). Multiple such venues are expected to be established in the following months, with between 3 and 50 slot machines each. Slot machines in casinos will remain allowed also for private operators.


It will be a crime to own a slot machine by an unauthorised entity and administrative fines of PLN 100,000 (approx. EUR 23,000) per machine can be imposed against unlicensed operators.


New rules regarding poker


Playing poker for cash or in-kind prizes is heavily regulated in Poland and will remain so under the Amendment, however there are some important changes which will relax its regulation to some extent.


The main form of playing poker is, and will remain, sport tournaments held inside casinos. Each tournament requires a separate prior notification to the authorities. 


The Amendment will introduce other forms of playing poker: (i) playing against the casino (as opposed to playing against other players); (ii) tournaments organised by casinos, but held outside casinos; (iii) minor tournaments with in-kind prizes of up to approx. PLN 2,100 in total which may be organised by anyone (but still require a notification). 


Changes in relation to advertising


Currently it is illegal to advertise any form of gambling in Poland, with minor exceptions such as advertising lotteries or non-public forms of advertising. Betting operators may also, to a limited extent, inform about the fact that they sponsor specific endeavours, such as football clubs.


The Amendment will lift ban for advertising of betting, both land-based and online. Only licenced operators will be allowed to advertise though. 


There will be also several restrictions as to the content and placement of ads. The main ones include:


ads on TV, radio, cinemas and theatres may only be broadcasted between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. – with the exception of advertisements broadcasted during transmissions of sports events sponsored by a betting operator (the sponsorship may also cover the teams or players participating in the event);


advertisements in public places are only allowed during mass events and sports events sponsored by a betting operator;


in general, advertising is allowed online and in magazines (with the exception of cover pages), among other media;


betting ads are required to follow several guidelines regarding their contents. For example, they may not invoke associations with financial success or encourage to pay higher stakes as means of increasing one's chances to win;


every ad must contain certain communication, such as of the risk connected with gambling.


Another important issue with regard to advertising is introduction of a ban on advertising of certain financial services on websites used for gambling. Therefore, services such as loans or payment processing will not be allowed to be advertised on websites used for online betting as well as on the website of the state-owned online casino.


Other changes


Other changes include:


- obligation to draft terms and conditions of responsible gambling in relation to online betting;


- obligation that no advertisement of specific financial services (such as loans) are placed on the online betting website;


- obligation to provide training on gambling regulations for relevant staff;


- obligation of periodic reporting of certain economic data in relation to betting service provided and their profitability and revenues to competent authorities; 


- obligation to provide competent authorities with 24/7 remote access to a database of the online betting website;


- obligation to mark the exterior of land-based bookmaking points with information that gambling is prohibited for minors;


- certain liberalisation of regulations on promotion and advertising of betting services;


- expanding the definition of betting to include betting for the occurrence of "virtual events". Virtual events are "computer-generated events concerning sports competition of humans or animals". Although the new law is not entirely clear on what virtual sports betting is, it seems that its aim was to allow betting for computer-generated results of sports events which had not taken place in reality. Similar forms of betting are already present on some markets, such as UK or Italy. For such betting the average programmed winnings value may not be lower by more than five percent than the winnings value in betting for non-virtual events for the preceding month;


- introducing obligation to keep records of all prizes/winning awarded with a minimum value of at least PLN 2,280. Previously such requirement concerned prizes/winnings of at least PLN 20,000


The above is only intended to cover the basics of the new regulations and is not intended to replace the legal advice. It does not include all details and all changes introduced.


Author: Piotr Dynowski

Partner, Bird & Bird