Poland – Blocking websites complies with the law

The Minister of Finance had the right to write addresses used by entrepreneurs who do not conduct legal gambling activities in Poland into the special register. This was recognized by the Provincial Administrative Court in several judgments.

Matters concerned controversial art. 15f of the Gambling Act (Journal of Laws of 2018, item 165, as amended). According to it, from 1st of July 2017, the Minister of Finance indicates the domains through which illegal bookmakers (which are those who do not have appropriate permits and do not pay taxes in Poland) offer their services to Poles. Telecommunications companies are obliged to block access to the listed addresses.

The possibility of blocking access to websites by state authorities aroused controversy from the beginning. The Ombudsman pointed out that “such mechanism creates a serious risk to freedom of speech and access to information”.

However, the original idea of the government went even further. It was planned that the decision of the minister of finance of the entrepreneur would not be able to appeal to the court. After the publications of DGP and the positions of the Panoptykon Foundation, the project was changed. The legislator even boasted that a lawsuit is foreseen for the rule of law. After starting the registry, some quickly decided to use it. The provisions of the Act are clear, but the complainants drew attention to constitutional doubts. Some referred to the position of the Ombudsman and argued that in practice the Minister of Finance implements preventive censorship.

This argument, however, did not convince the WSA in Warsaw. The court pointed out that the legislator had the right to regulate illegal gambling on the internet and to introduce art. 15f. It was also underlined that allegations of incompatibility of Polish law with the EU are not being addressed. After all, the government handed the draft to the European Commission for notification and the procedure was successful.

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