Poland’s amendment to its Gambling Act was passed just before Christmas, and comes into effect this Saturday 1 April. Whilst some of the amendments will be welcomed by the industry – such as the addition of online casino, poker and bingo games to the already regulated markets – the 12% tax on turnover is not one of them. The tax applies to all licenced operators, regardless of whether they offer online or land-based services, but it makes things particularly difficult for offshore operators.
In fact, making life difficult for offshore betting companies is one of the motivations for the amendment bill being passed in the first place, according to many of the operators who are withdrawing from the market. Poland’s Totalizator Sportowy is a state-owned company which has something of a monopoly on gambling activities in the country, and the new rules – which include blocking the web domains of any unlicensed gambling company later this year – are alleged to play directly into their hands.
Customers who are likely to be affected by the withdrawal of William Hill and Bet365 from the Polish gambling market have already been contacted by email and advised to withdraw any funds they have in their accounts before the end of service dates provided. Clients who miss the deadlines given will need to contact the companies directly in order to withdraw their funds, as the gaming websites will no longer be operational.
Quite what will happen next in Poland remains to be seen. It could be that the withdrawal of major players from the market could give the government cause to review its legislation at some point in an effort to make it more attractive to international operators. In that case, several of the departing companies have said they would be willing to look at the situation again with a view to returning to the Polish marketplace in the future. However, unless the new tax is reduced considerably, we don’t expect any companies to be rushing to reverse their recent decisions to withdraw.