In Poland, members of a cross-party group of politicians from the lower house, the Sejm, are calling for reforms to how gambling is taxed. A cross-party committee has joined in calls to change the current legislation in an attempt to rekindle the licensed bookmaker sector of the economy. The MPs believe that more income could be generated for both the industry and the Treasury by changing the current taxation system.

The cross-party committee represents Polish consumers and entrepreneurship. It is officially calling on the Ministry of Finance to abandon the 12% turnover tax that is applied to sports betting. Instead, it wants the country to fall into line with the system that is favoured by most EU Member States. That system sees tax levied on GGR (Gross Gambling Revenue) as opposed to Poland’s current system of total turnover.

The European Betting and Gambling Association are in favour of the change in regulation. In a statement on their website, Martin Haijer, Secretary-General, said,

“EGBA welcomes the ongoing discussions on the future of Poland’s online gambling regulation and supports changes to the tax base for online sports betting. The current turnover tax is punitively high and not conducive to a viable online gambling market that meets the needs and expectations of Polish players. Poland is a large gambling market and has a great love for sports, and a sensible GGR-based tax would be an incentive for virtually all Polish players to play with regulated websites and for more of Europe’s betting companies, including EGBA members, to consider applying for an online sports betting license. These companies would not only support Polish sports through sponsorships and other revenues but also pay gaming taxes and contribute to a more viable market which is attractive to Polish bettors and offers them a safe and regulated environment to play in.” 

The election of Andrzej Duda’s PiS (Law and Justice Party) to Government meant that the online gambling sector was radically overhauled. Until then, between 2011 and 2016, Polish online casinos and betting operated in a liberalised market. In 2017 Poland’s gambling codes were reformed, and the market was remodelled. The Treasury imposed the 12% of turnover tax across all the gambling verticals in the sports betting sector. In addition, the activities of the state-owned monopoly Totalizator Sportowy were restricted.

These changes to the legislation meant that all licensed operators had to have a physical presence in the country to continue to operate. They also had to provide the Ministry of Finance with a database containing all the details of their registered players. As a result, many international operators, including bet365, Bwin, Olympic Entertainment Group and William Hill, withdrew from the territory.

The cross-party committee is asking the Ministry to reconsider its tax policies. They believe the changes implemented post-2107 are regressive compared to other EU countries. The PIGBRiB (The Polish sportsbook trade association) has previously called on the government to introduce a flat rate of taxation on sportsbook GGR. This flat rate should be around 20% of GGR.

Professor Konrad Rackowski, a former Polish Finance Minister, published a paper in which he said these changes would create an online sports betting market that was more viable and attractive.

The current taxation at 12% of total turnover equates to between 55 and 65% as a GGR tax. This means Poland is levying one of the highest taxation rates on online sports betting in the EU. Professor Rackowski adds that only two out of twenty of the country’s licensed sports betting companies were returning a profit.  In addition, a fifth of Polish bettors frequent websites that are not licensed or regulated in Poland, resulting in the Treasury missing out on significant tax revenues.

The Sejm committee also questioned whether the size of the online betting market in Poland could be accurately calculated, given that the current data is based on taxed income and not gross proceeds.

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