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Poland Anti Gambling Law Progresses – November 13th, 2009

Casino NewsPoliticians in the eastern European nation of Poland moved a step closer to implementation of severe gambling restrictions Tuesday when they approved a draft law proposed by Prime Minister Donald Tusk.

The tightened law seeks to ban slot machines outside casinos and raise taxes for the industry, the prime minister’s chancellery said Tuesday.

According to the draft law, there will be no new permits issued to existing facilities with slot machines, while video lotteries will be banned. The position on Internet gambling remained unclear at press time.

The draft law now goes to parliament and the president, Lech Kaczynski, both of whom are expected to approve it. The announcement comes weeks after Tusk’s government was hit by a scandal in which several ministers were accused of lobbying on behalf of the gambling industry.

Tusk forced several ministers to resign in a move that was seen as an effort to shore up his faltering approval ratings in advance of next year’s presidential election, in which he is rumoured to be a candidate.

But critics warn that the country needs long-term solutions to tackle corruption in politics, and that Warsaw is focusing on the gambling problem to steer attention away from government corruption.

UPDATE: The Polish situation could have serious consequences for both offline and online operators and the Polish football clubs which they sponsor, due mainly to the provisions in the draft Polish legislation that seek to curtail the advertising and marketing of gambling.

Major betting companies that could be impacted include the Mangas Gaming sports betting brands, along with Unibet and Bwin, all of which are known to have sponsorship deals with Polish football clubs. Analysts estimate that up to GBP 11 million worth of club sponsorships are potentially at risk and could impact clubs like Wisla Krakow, Lech Poznan and Legia Warszawa.

One report suggests that if Unibet’s sponsorship was curtailed, the Polish national second league could be out of pocket by as much as Euro 4 million a season. Several of the clubs have already protested to the government, outlining the negative financial implications of the draft law. The proposals also include some draconian tax provisions, levying up to 50 percent of gross profits on offline gambling operators.

Both online and offline operators will now be anxiously awaiting the Parliamentary debate that is the next stage through which the legislation must pass, and where more clarity on its provisions is likely to emerge.

There is also talk of a further proposal which is understood to be based on regulation policies for online gambling. Polish legislators will have to tread carefully in the knowledge that as a member nation of the EU Poland will be under the watchful eye of the European Commission.

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