The Pracodawcy RP—Employers of the Republic of Poland—accused the Polish Ministry of Finance of sitting on local bookmakers’ urgent requests to approve simplified user registration of bettors for the upcoming FIFA World Cup in Russia.
In a letter representing Pracodawcy RP last May 22, Lukasz Czucharski explained that licensed Polish betting operators wish for the Ministry to allow their clients to be able to create temporary betting accounts before creating full-time ones. Their proposed process would allow bettors to use their short-term accounts to make a limited deposit they can use to wager. The players can only withdraw their funds after completing the full registration process within 30 days from creating their interim accounts.
Czucharski lamented that the country’s bureaucratic processes—together with an impassive Ministry—hinder the proposal from being approved in time for the World Cup.
The Gambling Act of Poland—enacted in 2009 and last amended in 2017—compels players to go through an arduous registration process that involves time-consuming user authentication. Since the kick-off before the World Cup is fast approaching, bookmakers have proposed shortening the registration process to welcome new bettors.
What stops that proposition, though, is the same Gambling Act. According to the regulatory law, changes in rules related to gambling must have the approval of the Finance Ministry. Only then can the government act upon a proposal six months after its submission.
Czucharzki wrote that decisions made from day to day affect the economic sector. The six-month window, he thought, is too long for regulators to react accordingly.
One More Polish Defeat
If the Polish government does not act fast, according to Czucharski, it will suffer another devastating loss—this time economically.
He shared that Polish betting operators do not only compete within themselves but also against huge foreign sportsbooks. Since the registration process of licensed operators takes a lot of time, bettors move to unlicensed sportsbooks based abroad that bypass the tedious registration procedure.
The letter reminded the government that Polish bookmakers are required to give 12 percent of total turnover as tax—one of the highest in the world. If a local bettor chooses a foreign betting site over the Polish ones, Czucharzki explained, the government would be losing a lot from unearned taxes.
Czucharzki, a tax expert, wrote:
“Odpływ graczy spowoduje, że straci polski legalny biznes. A w rezultacie stracą wszyscy, bo miliony złotych z podatków zamiast do naszego budżetu, trafią za granicę (The outflow of players will result in a losing legal Polish businesses. And as a result, everyone will lose because millions of złotys, instead of going to our taxes, will move outside).”
The Polish government created the Register of Domains for Illegal Offering of Gambling in late 2016. The Register records blacklisted unlicensed gambling website domains and restricts Polish residents from accessing these sites. The strict Gambling Act and the Register were tasked to reduce the number of illegal operators in the Polish betting industry. However, both Czucharski and Borkowski agreed that the Ministry of Finance is not doing enough to help the licensed Polish operators.
Lukasz Borkowski, a member of Graj Legalnie, said:
“[Blocking] of illegal operators’ websites and payments must be more effective. The Polish Ministry of Finance should update [the Register] more frequently and efficiently. It will lead to fairer competition on the Polish bookmaking market and reduce the ‘grey market’ in the Polish betting industry.”
A report by Graj Legalnie—a Polish legal association—noted that a successful crackdown of unlicensed bookmakers will give the government around PLN594 million worth of taxes collected in 2018, an increase from 2017’s PLN396 million. The report also found that the legal Polish bookmaking industry is still thriving, despite strict regulations by the Gambling Act. Licensed bookmakers delivered PLN3.3 billion worth of turnover in 2017, a significant increase from 2016’s PLN1.7 billion.