The passivity of state institutions in combatting illegal gambling on the internet results in many millions of losses for the budget every year. Apparently, this is not enough to take up effective action in trying to restrict the grey market.
In the current state of the legal environment, the state is in endowed with instruments which could markedly restrict the grey market in online betting. One such tool is the right to block the websites of operators who are unlicensed in Poland, the so-called offshore operators. Such a solution is already in place in some EU countries, such as Denmark, as well as in the US, Japan and New Zealand. The experiences of these countries show that blocking offshore operators’ websites is effective and results both in a significant restriction of the grey market and increased budget income.
The legal foundation of such a measure is art. 180 of the Telecommunication Law. On the grounds of this regulation, in specified cases appropriate entities may ask the provider of telecommunications services to block a website. However, despite continued appeals of employers’ organizations and licensed bookmakers, this instrument is not used. As a result of the passivity of state institutions, it is estimated that as much as 90 percent of all internet gambling services are provided on the grey market. In spite of that, a representative of the police – one of the entities which could block websites – stated in “Dziennik Gazeta Prawna” that in his opinion blocking them in this case was not possible, as unlicensed online betting is not a threat to public safety and order. At the same time, it should be pointed out that both organizing unlicensed internet gambling and participating in it are illegal under Polish law. Therefore, as a result of the offshore operators’ violations, the budget loses an estimated 300-400 mln PLN a year. Given the scope of the problem, it appears that the resulting threat for public order is very real.
In this context, the indecision of the state may be seen as an invitation to profit from illegal activity. It has to be said that many have accepted this invitation – in 2014, there were 156 illegal bookmakers. How many legal ones were there? Only 4. This glaring disproportion means that everybody loses. The budget loses hundreds of millions of złoty moved abroad. Gamblers lose as well, as many are unaware of the consequences, thus exposing themselves to penal fiscal liability. Finally, the entrepreneurs who registered their business and try to combat illegal competition left to their own devices lose too.
The inactivity of the authorities in this regard has led to a situation where Poland is a haven for illegal gambling. Unlicensed bookmakers treat this inactivity as an open door to violating regulations and achieving mind-boggling profits at the expense of the state budget. The offer of foreign bookmakers is often advertised by Polish celebrities, who give them credibility – which is, frankly, rather distasteful. The passivity of the state means that instead of using their authority to combat unlicensed online betting, these people are advertising it.
Łukasz Czucharski, The Tax Committee of Employers of Poland