The dust is beginning to settle on the controversial Polish gambling law changes, and some major operators look set to explore ways of remaining in the country’s market. New regulatory rules, which came into force at the end of March, dictate that companies require a license from the state run Totlizator Sportowy if they are to accept players from Poland. The ensuing exodus of the major international brands was as swift as it was inevitable. But news that bwin is ‘cooperating’ with the country’s government as it takes the first steps towards achieving a license, will be met with relief by many.
Bwin, like other operators, has been forced to suspend its activities in Poland for the time being. This means that new Polish players have been unable to register since the turn of the month, and existing ones cannot deposit or wager. However, the tone of their recent communications is noticeably conciliatory and the company has vowed to seek a solution that will reignite its Polish operations. If these ambitions are to be realised, bwin is likely to expect some concessions on the behalf of the Polish government too.
These concessions will most likely focus on onerous new tax laws, which have been described as ‘unprofitable’ by many, including some Polish political figures. The contentious legislation means that operators must pay a 12.5% levy on all turnover earned within the country’s boundaries, or face expulsion. The changes have been subject to intense wrangling over recent months, but were ratified as part of wider Polish Gambling Act. However, bwin’s management team appears ready to trust the Polish government’s pledge to tackle the onerous levies at a later date.
If bwin does successfully restore its Polish operations, others are bound to follow. Both William Hill and Mr Green have refused to short the door altogether; messages from the latter state that while the current cessation of operations is unavoidable, it is also likely to be temporary. It could take months for major international providers to secure bespoke Polish licenses but cooperation from the Poland’s government promises to be a crucial factor as all parties jostle for position.
In the meantime, only a handful of Polish and Central European gaming platforms remain in the online market. The new laws have brought online sports betting and casino in line with the country’s lottery and bingo products, which are centrally regulated. As ever, it’s the players that suffer the most – many had a matter of days to withdraw their cash from online sites they’d used for many years. The recent press releases from the likes of bwin and Mr Green will provide a fillip to the many tens of thousands of players affected by the recent Bill.
As international operators begin to establish licenses to practice within Poland, the country’s keen gamers can keep their eye on Polish-friendly sites like Best Casino Bonuses to find out where to play. This week’s developments are undoubtedly positive, but the next few months are unlikely to be plain sailing. If a few international providers can successfully negotiate the choppy waters then it will clear the channels for others to do the same. An interesting year lies ahead for all Polish players.