The European Commission does not want to have anything to do with the gambling industry complaints against individual EU countries, including Poland.
1165 domains are already listed in the Registry for the Offering of Gambling Games Contrary to the Gambling Act, i.e. the list of prohibited gambling sites published by the Ministry of Finance. The Registry has been controversial from the very beginning. In fact, the controversy has been so intense as to provoke international online gambling operators into making several complaints to the European Commission. According to them, the Registry violates the rules of the Single Market.
Brussels, however, decided otherwise and rather unexpectedly announced on Thursday that that it is dropping all online-gambling enforcement actions concerning violations of the common market. And there have been quite a few – in total, the EC has received more than 30 complaints against 16 EU countries since 2004. Several of them concerned Poland and the strongest arguments were brought up against a new provision requiring telecoms to block access to gambling websites offered by companies who do not hold a gambling license in Poland.
‘This decision is clearly political. The Commission most likely wanted to get the gambling legislation, which is a contentious issue, off its table. These are completely different legal solutions which are implemented in every country and they are all hardly comparable to each other due to the lack of a uniform EU policy in this regard,’ explains Bartosz Andruszaniec, attorney-at-law specializing in gambling law.
As a consequence of the EC decision, gambling operators lose this line of arguments in their battle.
‘It will be a big blow for them. Many of them used the Registry and the potential incompliance of the act with the EU law as a shield. Now this argument is no longer applicable,’ asserts Michał Kopeć, expert from the analytical company Better Collective providing gambling industry research.
Which, however, does not mean that they will give up completely in these efforts. On the contrary, the Remote Gambling Association and the EGBA (European Gaming and Betting Association), the largest EU gambling associations, oppose this decision and declare a further fight before the Court of Justice of the European Union. The EU ruling does not block this path for them.
Even if they bring it to the court or the ECJ, it will be difficult for them to win considering this opposite statement of the Commission. In my opinion, the Registry as well as the entire Polish law are now immune to complaints,’ Kopeć states.
But this legal success is undermined by the lack of similar successes in the practical implementation of the gambling act on the Polish market. For now, the only people cashing in are the legally licensed bookmakers in Poland. Blocking access to the largest foreign domains made their year-to-year turnover climb as high as 250 percent.
Only one new company – Romanian Superbet – has managed to enter our market since April. Other applications for licenses submitted to the Ministry of Finance, with the unofficial number being six or seven so far, have not been accepted. As a result, seven legitimate companies operate in Poland at the moment. The turnover fell to 10-15 percent compared to before the entry of the new law, when the market was estimated at as much as PLN 5 billion a year.