1 History of and overall attitudes to gambling
1.1 How prevalent are different types of gambling in your jurisdiction? For example, does the current law reflect: (a) Religious or moral objections to gambling? (b) A permissive approach which also seeks to address the social consequences of gambling? and (c) The promotion of gambling as an ‘export' industry?
The Gambling Act regulates many areas of gambling. From a business perspective, regulations concerning betting – and in particular online betting – are of the utmost importance, as the industry has grown more than fourfold in the last five years. At the same time, there are currently no cash bingo premises in Poland, and online casinos fall under the state monopoly. For these reasons, this Q&A predominantly focuses on online and land-based betting, as well as land-based casino regulations; but it also highlights key issues for other regulated activities in Poland.
The Gambling Act differentiates between the types of administrative decisions under which regulated activities in the area of gambling may be carried out. For example, a licence is issued for the operation of a casino, as this activity is limited in number due to its particular public interest. Permits are issued for the organisation of land-based cash bingo, as well as for the organisation of betting, both land-based and online. There are also certain activities specified in the Gambling Act which must be notified to the competent authority.
For the sake of simplicity, the word ‘licence' is used in this Q&A to collectively signify an administrative decision authorising its holder to professionally engage in specific gambling activities regulated under the Gambling Act.
Polish law does not reflect any religious or moral objections to gambling.
The Gambling Act sets out the rules which operators must follow to ensure that responsible gaming mechanisms are in place. For example, in the case of betting, operators must adopt a responsible gaming policy specifying:
- the rules on self-exclusion;
- maximum stakes; and
- time spent on gaming.
The Polish gambling industry is strictly regulated by the Gambling Act, which provides for a state monopoly on number games, cash lotteries, telebingo, and online casinos. The act requires foreign operators to obtain a Polish licence for retail and online betting. Websites offering gambling games without an appropriate licence are blocked and entered into the Register of Illegal Gambling Websites. Consequently, foreign entrants often seek to obtain a licence through an entity operating solely in Poland.
Polish companies successfully produce and export gambling hardware and software, including slot machines and games dedicated for such slot machines.
2 Legal and regulatory framework
2.1 Which legislative and regulatory provisions govern gambling in your jurisdiction?
The main legislation that governs gambling in Poland is the Gambling Act of 19 November 2009 (Journal of Laws of 2022, Item 888, as amended).
Other relevant legislation includes the following:
- the National Revenue Administration Act of 16 November 2016 (Journal of Laws of 2022, Item 813);
- the Penal and Fiscal Code of 10 September 1999 (Journal of Laws of 2022, Item 859);
- the Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing Act of 1 March 2018 (Journal of Laws of 2022, Item 593); and
- secondary legislation issued on the basis of the abovementioned acts.
2.2 Which bodies are responsible for regulating and enforcing the applicable laws and regulations? What powers do they have?
The Ministry of Finance is responsible for granting and revoking licences, as well as supervising gambling operations; while the customs and revenue authorities are responsible for matters of procedure (eg, official inspections).
As regards anti-money laundering/counter terrorist financing, the competent supervisory authority is the general inspector of financial information.
2.3 What is the regulators' general approach in regulating the gambling sector?
The Polish gambling sector is strictly regulated. It usually takes up to a year to obtain a licence, with the Gambling Act setting an extendable six-month deadline for the procedure. The Ministry of Finance scrutinises applicants in great detail, especially in terms of their shareholding structure, management and technical capabilities.
Once granted, a licence is unlikely to be revoked, except in a limited number of circumstances where revocation is mandated by the Gambling Act. Other than that, all that the operator must do to hold onto its licence is to notify the Ministry of Finance of any changes concerning its gambling operations.
In 2017, legal bookmakers served only 10% of the Polish market by turnover and 30% by gross gaming revenue – that is, turnover less winnings payouts (the remainder of the market was served by entities not licensed in Poland). In 2018, following an amendment to the Gambling Act – according to research by non-governmental organisation Graj Legalnie – turnover increased to 60% and market share to 25%.
3 Definitions and scope of gambling
3.1 How is ‘gambling' defined in your jurisdiction?
‘Gambling consists' of games of chance, betting, card games and slot machines.
3.2 What different types of activities are defined in the gambling legislation and what specific requirements apply to each? Please consider: (a) Betting (fixed odds/pool and spread)/betting on lotteries; (b) Gaming (house and ring games); (c) Lotteries/scratch cards and (d) The interface with financial products (if relevant).
(a) Games of chance
‘Games of chance' are games where:
- the prize is either money or its equivalent; and
- the outcome of the game depends on chance.
- number games (state monopoly), where the prize is won by guessing correct numbers, symbols or other items and depends on the aggregate of stakes paid; as well as keno games, where the prize is won by guessing correct numbers and constitutes the product of stakes paid and a multiplier specified for individual pay tables;
- cash lotteries (state monopoly), where participants purchase lottery coupons or game tickets in order to win money;
- telebingo (state monopoly), a nationwide game where participants purchase game tickets with random sets of numbers or symbols from a pre-defined set in order to win money or an equivalent, and the drawing of lots is broadcast on television;
- cylindrical games such as roulette, where participants guess numbers, symbols or other items, and the prize depends on a pre-defined stake-to-winnings ratio, with the result being determined by a rotary device, including similar games offered via the internet;
- dice games;
- cash bingo, where participants purchase random sets of numbers from a pre-defined set in order to win an amount of money depending on the aggregate of stakes paid;
- raffle bingo, where participants purchase random sets of numbers from a pre-defined set in order to win a money equivalent prize;
- raffle lotteries, where participants purchase lottery coupons or game tickets in order to win a money equivalent prize;
- promotional lotteries, where participants purchase goods, services or game tickets in order to win money or an equivalent, without having to pay an additional participation fee; and
- audiotext lotteries, where participants call or text a specified number via a public telecommunications network.
‘Betting' means placing a bet in order to win money or an equivalent by guessing:
- the outcome of a sporting event involving people or animals, with the prize depending on the aggregate of stakes paid by participants (totalisator systems); or
- the likelihood of anything occurring or not occurring, including computer-generated sporting events involving people or animals, with the actual prize depending on the stake-to-winnings ratio agreed between the bookmaker and the stake payer (bookmaking services).
(c) Card games
Gambling card games include blackjack, poker, and baccarat, played for money or its equivalent.
(d) Slot machines
Games on slot machines are games of chance played on mechanical and/or electronic devices, including computer hardware, as well as similar games featuring an element of chance offered via the Internet, where the prize is either money or its equivalent.
Organizing slot machine games outside of casinos falls under the state monopoly and is carried out exclusively in slot machine outlets.
3.3 What are the main mechanisms and features of the control of gambling in your jurisdiction? What are the consequences of breach of the regulations, both for operators and for players?
The Ministry of Finance is the supervisory body that issues licences. The executive authority is the customs and revenue administration.
Periodic inspections are carried out with respect to each licensed operator. Inspections are aimed at verifying compliance with licence conditions.
In the event of a breach, the operator may face both fines and loss of licence.
In addition, board members of an operator offering gambling games without a licence are liable to a fine of up to PLN 28 million and a custodial sentence of up to three years, while players may be fined up to PLN 5 million. However, the actual penalties are usually considerably lower.
4 Issues of jurisdiction
4.1 What approach do the courts take to the issue of jurisdiction? Where an operator which is physically outside the jurisdiction offers services to individuals within the jurisdiction, is such gambling treated as taking place offshore and outside the control of the authorities? If not, what triggers establish when such gambling is subject to the laws and control of your jurisdiction?
Only Polish-licensed gambling is legal under the Gambling Act. Foreign operators without a Polish licence should block access to their websites in Poland. Otherwise, the website used to offer gambling games will be blocked and entered in the Register of Illegal Gambling Websites.
Anyone can view the list of blocked websites, and the system enables automatic transmission of data to telecommunications and payment service providers.
Data entered in the register includes:
- the names of websites used to offer, advertise or promote gambling games in a manner contrary to Polish law, insofar as such websites can be accessed through an internet network located in Poland; and
- the date and time of entry or any changes thereto.
4.2 Can foreign operators provide remote gambling services in your jurisdiction without obtaining a licence? Can licensed domestic operators provide services overseas?
No. As mentioned in question 4.1, any website used to offer gambling games without a Polish licence will be blocked by the Ministry of Finance and entered in the Register of Illegal Gambling Websites.
This applies also to websites advertising the services of foreign operators.
5 Remote versus non-remote gambling
5.1 Does the gambling regime in your jurisdiction distinguish between remote and non-remote gambling? If so, how are these defined?
The Gambling Act provides for a state monopoly organising online casino games. The state monopoly also covers number games, cash lotteries, telebingo games and slot machines played outside casinos (at state-owned gambling outlets).
Retail casinos may be operated by private entities, under a licence granted by the Ministry of Finance. Betting may be offered by private entities as both online and non-remote betting. Currently, 24 entities hold online betting licences from the Ministry of Finance. There are far fewer retail betting licences.
5.2 Are there any restrictions on the media through which gambling can be provided (eg, internet/mobile telephony)?
There are no such restrictions on online betting; in fact, all betting operators offer dedicated mobile apps.
The Gambling Act also provides for the possibility of organising audiotext lotteries via paid phone calls or text messages sent via a public telecommunications network. In this case, only telecommunications network connections can be used.
6.1 What types of licences are available? Please consider: (a) Operators; (b) Activities (if relevant); (c) Premises; (d) Key individuals (if relevant) and (e) Equipment (if relevant).
Pursuant to the Gambling Act, a permit or licence for a specific type of activity must be obtained.
Cylindrical games, card games, dice games and slot machines may be played after obtaining a casino operating licence.
Cash bingo gaming activities may be played after obtaining a licence to operate a cash bingo outlet.
Betting activities may be carried out, under the terms of a licence, only at betting kiosks or online after obtaining a betting licence.
Audiotext lotteries may be organised on the basis of a permit.
An application for a gambling permit or licence, as described above, may only be filed by joint stock companies or limited liability companies with their registered office in the territory of:
- Poland; or
- another EU or European Free Trade Association (EFTA) member state, or a party to the Agreement on the European Economic Area (EEA) – in which case it is necessary to appoint a representative or to establish a branch in Poland.
Promotional lotteries may be organised, on the basis of a permit granted, by natural persons, legal persons or unincorporated entities.
Raffle lotteries and raffle bingo games may be organised by natural persons, legal persons or unincorporated entities, depending on the value of the prize pool, on the basis of a permit or notification (in this case, the notification must be made no later than 30 days before the game starts).
Key individuals (ie, shareholders and management and supervisory board members) do not require any specific authorisation, but must hold Polish citizenship or the citizenship of a member state of the European Union or EFTA, a party to the Agreement on the EEA or the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development. They will be screened by the Polish special services to confirm:
- that there are no justified objections with regard to:
- state security;
- public order; or
- the security of the economic interests of the state; and
- compliance with the anti-money laundering/counter terrorist financing (AML/CFT) provisions.
6.2 Which bodies award and oversee such licences?
Casino operating licences, permits for operating cash bingo halls and permits to arrange betting are granted by the Ministry of Finance.
Permits to organise raffle lotteries, audiotext lotteries, raffle bingo and promotional lotteries are granted by the head of the regional revenue administration office in whose jurisdiction such games are to be organised.
Where a notification is sufficient, it should be made to the customs and revenue office in whose jurisdiction such games are to be organised.
6.3 What are the key features of such licences (eg, term/renewal/any limit on overall numbers/change of control)?
Casino operating licences, permits for operating cash bingo halls and permits to arrange betting are granted for a period of six years and may be extended once for a further six years.
The decision usually specifies:
- the entity;
- the location of the casino or betting points (address);
- the website (in the case of online betting);
- the approved shareholding structure; and
- the names of the members of the company's management and supervisory boards.
Other features of such licences vary depending on the nature of gambling activity for which the permit/licence is granted.
In the case of lotteries, decisions are less detailed and limited to key information, such as:
- the name of the entity organising the lottery;
- the name and time of the lottery;
- the names of persons managing the entity organising the lottery; and
- the area in which the lottery is to be held.
6.4 What are the substantive requirements to obtain a licence (eg, company established in the jurisdiction/physical presence/capitalisation?)
An application for a casino operating licence or a permit to organise a cash bingo game, betting or audiotext lottery may only be filed by joint stock companies or limited liability companies with their registered office in:
- the territory of Poland; or
- the territory of another EU or EFTA member state, or a party to the Agreement on the EEA – in this case, it is necessary to appoint a representative or to establish a branch in Poland.
The above companies may apply for a licence or permit only if they document:
- the source of origin of their capital and its legality;
- no arrears in payment of taxes or customs duties;
- no arrears in the payment of social security or health insurance contributions; and
- compliance of the company's operations with the AML/CFT and accounting provisions.
6.5 What are the formal and documentary requirements to obtain a licence?
The Gambling Act provides a list of documents and information that must be included in the application; the documents vary depending on the type of gambling operation.
The main document that must be attached to the application sets out the rules of the game which is the subject of approval.
6.6 What is the typical timetable for obtaining a licence?
The Gambling Act provides a six-month term to obtain a casino licence/betting permit. This term may be extended; typically, a decision is issued within one year of filing of the application.
An entity that holds a licence/permit may apply to extend the commencement date of its operations specified therein for a maximum period of six months; otherwise, the licence/permit expires.
Permits/licences for promotional lotteries, audiotext lotteries and raffle lotteries are granted within two months of the date of submission of the application.
6.7 What costs are typically incurred in obtaining a licence?
A licence is subject to a fee, calculated by reference to a base amount. Currently, the following fees apply:
- Casino operating licence: €400,000.
- Betting licence: €25,000 + additionally:
- €650 for each betting outlet;
- €25,000 for organising online bets; and
- €50,000 for each online betting website.
Licences for other activities falling within the scope of the Gambling Act are subject to fees ranging from €650 to €1,500.
Any change to an existing licence is also subject to a fee, albeit a much smaller one.
Operators must provide financial security in order to protect the financial interests of gambling participants and secure tax liabilities for the tax on games, which may consist of:
- bank or insurance guarantees; or
- a deposit of an appropriate amount in a bank account indicated by the authority granting permits.
The financial security required amounts to:
- €460,000 for casinos; and
- €150,000 for online betting.
7 Ongoing compliance
7.1 What are the operator's rights and obligations under the licence?
The main right is to organise legal gambling. There are 50 land-based casinos in Poland and about 25 permits for online betting.
Operators are subject to many obligations in relation to a granted licence, such as:
- the obligation to keep the Ministry of Finance informed about material changes as provided in the Gambling Act;
- the obligation to keep specific books, records, registers and documentation;
- the obligation to provide the Ministry of Finance, on request, with information on their operations; and
- the obligation to submit certain information on a quarterly basis, such as:
- the appropriate economic and financial data summaries;
- details of their scope of activity, with a particular emphasis on turnover;
- financial results;
- economic indicators, especially employment rates; and
- statistical indicators.
Casino and betting operators must also present to the Ministry of Finance documents confirming compliance with the conditions for obtaining a licence every two years while the licence remains valid.
7.2 Can licences be transferred? If so, how? What restrictions apply?
Generally speaking, licences are granted to specific entities and the Gambling Act does not provide for the possibility of transfers.
In practice, however, a company that is a licence holder can be acquired. The licensed company should notify the Ministry of Finance of the acquisition, including any changes to its governing bodies, thus prompting the authorities to analyse the new shareholding structure and composition of the governing bodies, as during the licence application procedure.
7.3 What requirements and restrictions apply to the different types of gambling facilities in your jurisdiction?
No answer submitted for this question.
8 Penalties and sanctions
8.1 What penalties and sanctions are available to the authorities for breach of the gambling legislation?
First, the authority may request the operator to address any defects identified within a specified timeframe and notify the authority of the time and manner in which they were addressed accordingly.
The Ministry of Finance will revoke a licence (entirely or in part) if:
- the operator does not address the defects identified by the authority;
- the operator seriously violates the terms and conditions set forth in the licence or in regulations;
- the initial share capital of the company is reduced beneath the level set in the Gambling Act;
- the operator resigns or there is a break of more than six months in the activities covered by the licence;
- a shareholder or a member of the management or supervisory authorities of the company is convicted within the territory of the European Union or the European Economic Area of an offence under the anti-money laundering/counter-terrorist financing (AML/CFT) regime;
- the authority twice confirms participation in gambling games by a person under 18 years of age in the same gaming centre or betting point;
- a casino, cash bingo or betting operator fails to comply with the relevant provisions governing AML/CTF; or
- a casino, cash bingo or betting operator fails to submit financial statements along with an auditor's report (every two years during the term of the licence).
The Gambling Act also provides for the possibility of imposing financial penalties:
- for organising gambling without a licence (permit) or without undertaking the required notification to the authorities (in which case a fine may additionally be imposed on key individuals of such entities);
- for organising gambling in violation of the conditions set forth in the granted licence;
- on an owner (or a dependent owner) of a premises where there are unregistered gaming machines and in which gastronomic, commercial or service activities are undertaken;
- on a payment service provider that facilitates payments for illegal gambling websites;
- on participants of gambling organised without a licence, without a permit or without the necessary notification to the authorities; or
- for organising gambling whose organisation falls under the state monopoly.
The penalties will depend on the violation. The most severe penalties apply to organising games without a licence, and can be up to five times the licence fee (in the case of running an illegal casino, the penalty may be up to €2 million).
9 Advertising and marketing of gambling
9.1 What requirements and restrictions apply to the advertising and marketing of physical and remote gambling in your jurisdiction? Do these vary depending on the type or location of the activity, or the medium through which it is carried out?
Apart from betting, public advertising is generally considered to be prohibited.
The Gambling Act distinguishes between ‘advertising' and ‘promotion', as follows:
- ‘Advertising' involves the provision of information about organising games; and
- ‘Promotion' involves the provision of incentives to play.
Betting advertising may be carried out in specific media and at specific times – for example, advertising may be broadcast on television between 10:00pm and 6:00am. However, the sponsors of sporting events may advertise while these events are broadcast regardless of the time of the broadcast.
The advertising of betting on the Internet is not limited in time or to specific places, but must:
- comply with the general rules set out in the Gambling Act; and
- contain information on:
- the consequences of participating in illegal gambling;
- the risks associated with gambling; and
- the operator's licence.
One of the statutory solutions allowing betting operators to be active in the public space is through the provision of information about sponsorship – that is, the presentation of information containing the name or other designation of the sponsor in connection with sponsorship.
There are no restrictions on advertising and promotions conducted inside land-based casinos and betting points, as well as on the website specified in an online betting licence.
10 Consumer protection
10.1 What social responsibility obligations apply to land-based and remote gambling operators in your jurisdiction? Do these vary depending on the type or location of the activity, or the medium through which it is carried out?
The obligations vary depending on the type of gambling.
For land-based premises, quantitative restrictions apply. For example, a town of up to 250,000 inhabitants may accommodate a single casino, as long as the total number of casinos in the relevant province does not exceed one per 650,000 inhabitants. There are additional guidelines that stipulate, for example, the minimum distance that must be maintained between casinos and educational institutions.
In order to protect players from the negative effects of gambling, operators must implement responsible gaming regulations. These regulations should:
- be tailored to the relevant type of gambling;
- state that minors are prohibited from engaging in such games;
- spell out the risks associated with gambling; and
- point gambling addicts towards institutions that can provide help.
Operators must also implement mechanisms enabling players to curb their gambling in some way – for example, by specifying a maximum daily stake or time spent playing on gaming machines.
10.2 What other general consumer protection requirements are of relevance for gambling operators in your jurisdiction?
Players are regarded as consumers under Polish law and thus benefit from all protection afforded by consumer law. That said, the Office of Competition and Consumer Protection has yet to issue a decision that directly concerns the gambling industry.
11 Financial crime
11.1 How does the gambling regime interface with money laundering/terrorist financing/proceeds of crime legislation in your jurisdiction?
Every gambling operator is an obligated institution within the meaning of the anti-money laundering/counter terrorist financing (AML/CFT) regime.
Therefore, operators must comply with the obligations set forth in the relevant legislation, which can generally be divided into five basic categories:
- identifying and assessing risks relating to money laundering and terrorist financing;
- implementing and applying financial security measures proportional to the risk identified as a result of the ‘know your customer' process;
- collecting and transferring information required under the regime to relevant institutions;
- cooperating with the general inspector of financial information in the event of suspicions of money laundering or terrorist financing; and
- implementing measures aimed at ensuring the proper performance of the basic tasks of obligated institutions.
The Penal and Fiscal Code provides a list of fiscal offences and violations that could potentially be committed by gambling organisations. Under these provisions, the following constitute fiscal offences:
- organising gambling without a licence or in violation of its rules (fine or imprisonment);
- participating in illegal or foreign gambling in Poland (fine); and
- conducting the forbidden promotion or advertising of gambling games, in which case both the person that orders or conducts the advertising and those that benefit from it may be punished.
12 Non-gambling activities/social gambling
12.1 What specific activities, if any, are exempted from the gambling regime in your jurisdiction (eg, prize contests/sweepstakes/free prize draws/e-sports)?
Traditional contests are not subject to gambling regulations, as long as:
- they do not include a so-called ‘element of randomness'; and
- the winners are chosen by a jury, not by chance.
Significantly, e-sport is not considered gambling.
12.2 How is ‘social gambling' defined in your jurisdiction and how is it regulated (if at all)?
Social gambling is not yet regulated in Poland. The Ministry of Finance will rule, by way of an administrative decision, on whether a game constitutes a type of gambling.
13 Disputes and legal enforceability
13.1 Are gambling contracts enforceable as a matter of law?
Yes. The Civil Code provides that anyone who undertakes a game or bet may not claim a refund, unless the game or bet was prohibited or unreliable. Claims relating to the game or bet may be pursued only if the game or bet was conducted with the permission of the competent state authority.
Claims relating to participation in a gambling game expire six months after the due date. The limitation period for claims is suspended from the date of filing the complaint to the date of responding to the complaint.
13.2 In which forums are gambling disputes typically heard in your jurisdiction? What issues do such disputes typically involve?
Disputes between players and operators are settled by the common courts and are usually based on an interpretation of the game's terms and conditions.
13.3 Have there been any recent cases of note?
No answer submitted for this question.
14 Trends and predictions
14.1 How would you describe the current gambling landscape and prevailing trends in your jurisdiction? Are any new developments anticipated in the next 12 months, including any proposed legislative reforms?
At present, competition is most intense in the online betting area, following years of considerable growth due to online betting licences not being limited to any particular quota. There is a risk that in the next few years, smaller entities could either be taken over by well-established market giants or acquired by offshore betting operators hoping to gain a foothold in Poland.
Thanks to the 2016 Gambling Act amendment, the online gambling grey market shrank from approximately 80% in 2016 to little over 20% in 2020. Currently, 78% of online games and bets are run legally.
There is a clear trend towards tackling the grey market. In March 2022, the Ministry of Finance published data for the years 2016 to 2021 showing that Poland is below the EU average in this respect, as regards betting and online casino games alike.
As recently as early 2016, the grey market represented the lion's share of the Polish online gambling market (79.6%). However, according to the data for 2021, this number has since plummeted to 17.9%. By comparison, over the same period, the EU average fell from 33% to 25.2%.
The Ministry of Finance also reported that proceeds generated by the gambling sector exceeded PLN 14 billion in 2021, rising by 52.5% compared with 2020.
15 Tips and traps
15.1 What are your top tips for gambling operators in your jurisdiction and what potential sticking points would you highlight?
Gambling operators should be mindful of the following:
- The tax rate for betting in Poland is one of the highest in the world.
- In order to bet on the outcome of sporting events involving people or animals, operators should obtain the written consent of the event organiser. This consent is subject to a fee determined by the organiser (often the fee is based on the operator's total revenues).
- The Ministry of Finance will decide, on application or ex officio, whether particular games or bets involving an element of chance are to be treated as games of chance, bets, card games or slot machines for the purposes of the applicable law. This matter is of particular concern to entities organising competitions and promotions of any kind. A ‘competition', as understood by Polish law, must aim to select the best-qualified winner based on specified criteria. No element of chance can be introduced into a competition without running the risk of the competition being deemed a lottery.
- The state has a monopoly on casino games and prevents competitors from entering the market, making online casino games a fertile ground for illegal activity and, incidentally, reducing state revenues.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.