Under the amendment to the Gambling Act, a register of banned domains was created. Why did the Ministry of Finance create it, how it works and what it protects against?
One of the most important changes introduced due to the amendment of December 2016 to the Act on games of chance is the creation of the Registry of Domains Used to Offer Gambling Games Contrary to the Act (available at hazard.mf.gov.pl), which has been in operation since July 1st, 2017. This is a government website, on which a list of websites conducting gambling activity without the required license is placed. This is due to the fact that conducting betting and promotional lotteries via the network requires a permit issued by the Minister of Finance.
Registry updates and the number of sites included in it
In mid-March, the Ministry of Finance’s list included almost 1,600 domains belonging to entities offering online gambling services in Poland, which did not have a relevant government license. Among them are the pages of the largest bookmaking companies. The Register of Domains Serving to Offer Gambling Games Contrary to the Act, it is currently updated at most several times a month, which unfortunately means that the number of sites listed in it is not entirely up to date.
This situation, in turn, translates into the possibility of finding an illegal bookmaker or e-casino that is accessible to Poles online and works without the required documents. What’s more, the organizers of sports betting, operating without the formal consent of the government and other gambling companies are consistently trying to circumvent Polish law by changing domain names to others.
These activities are caused by the fact that websites listed in the register must be blocked by internet providers and payment operators who cannot make transfers from Poland, e.g. to accounts of illegal bookmakers in our country. However, if a bookmaker changes the name of the site to one that is not in the registry, it can theoretically continue working without consequences: the new name of the site does not appear in the registry, so internet providers do not have to block it, and payment operators are not obliged to block transfers.
When a player enters a website in the Prohibited Domain Registry, a message from the Ministry of Finance is displayed informing that the indicated company is being used to offer gambling illegally. This announcement also contains information about impending criminal and fiscal liability for participation in games organized contrary to the provisions of the Act and a link to the list of gambling companies respected by the state.
Watch out for penalties
Pursuant to the provisions of the new law, participation in illegal gambling is subject to a fine of up to 120 daily rates, where in 2018 the minimum rate is PLN 70 and the maximum is PLN 28,000. This means that in extreme cases, the penalty may amount to even more than PLN 3 million. What’s more, the player is also subject to a penalty of 100% of the winnings not reduced by the amounts of the stakes paid. In practice, this means that a player who placed a bet for PLN 100 and won PLN 200 is forced to return PLN 200, which is all of his profit. The above penalty is imposed by the head of the customs and tax office on whose territory sports bets are conducted.
The emergence of the register of banned domains has strengthened the position of betting operators recommended by the Ministry of Finance, thanks to which they can boast of increasing profits. There are currently nine such companies in Poland. Seven of them operate in two ways and make their offer available to players both at the land-based betting points and via the Internet. The other two operate only on the basis of concessions for stationary sports betting.
These bookmakers offer a whole range of sports bets, which allows them to effectively compete with entities without the required license. It is worth adding here that using the services of the former ensures not only the security of the funds paid, but also the support of Polish sports clubs.