Poland's Leading Bookmaker STS Battles Kindred In Court

December 8, 2022
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Poland’s leading bookmaker STS Group says it has made progress in a lawsuit against Kindred Group and its bookmaking brand Unibet, accusing it of what the company describes as a continuous violation of the country’s gambling law.

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Poland’s leading bookmaker STS Group says it has made progress in a lawsuit against Kindred Group and its bookmaking brand Unibet, accusing it of what the company describes as a continuous violation of the country’s gambling law.

The Polish bookmaker’s legal action has triggered an order by a local court to ban Unibet from offering its services to users in Poland until it secures a licence.

Although the District Court of Warsaw has not yet issued a final ruling on the case, STS has praised its latest decision.

In a statement provided to VIXIO GamblingCompliance, the bookmaker said that “it is clear that STS’s lawsuit might not be the only one, as legal operators are seriously considering to jointly act against” Unibet.

“While a share of gambling companies have withdrawn from illegally offering gambling services on Poland’s territory after 2017 when the amended [gambling law] entered into force, Unibet has continuously provided services in Poland, openly violating the provisions of the Polish law,” said Zdzisław Kostrubała, a member of the management board of STS.

“We are pleased with the court’s decision which … gives hope for the elimination of unfair competition in the bookmaking market,” according to Kostrubała.

STS claims that, in addition to offering its service to customers in Poland, Kindred is actively looking for new customers in the Polish market through marketing activities that include telemarketing.

A spokesperson for Kindred Group told VIXIO the group “confirms that the company has an ongoing dispute with a competitor in Poland. This was started in 2021 but it has not yet been settled.”

Under the country’s amended 2016 gambling law that paved the way for tighter regulations to combat offshore gambling, Poland has been blocking local users from accessing non-licensed gambling websites since 2017. As of December 7, the blocklist comprises close to 27,800 domains. More than 150 of those domains contain a reference to Unibet.

Article 15f of Poland’s amended gambling law requires local internet service providers (ISPs) to block their customers from accessing domains that are added to the blocklist. The finance ministry is tasked with notifying ISPs about the domains to which access should be blocked. Once they receive such a notification, ISPs are given 48 hours to block their customers from accessing such websites.

Should the Polish court rule in STS’s favour, Unibet could face a major fine. In 2022, the maximum fine for organising or hosting gambling against the law’s provisions or against the terms of a licence is PLN28,895,040 (€6,151,492), according to data provided by STS.

Organising gambling without a licence, permission or without submitting the required application can be punished with a maximum fine of PLN2,954,448 (€628,975).

Despite efforts by the Polish finance ministry, the offshore gambling industry continues to attract a sizable share of the country’s market. An opinion poll carried out in 2021 showed that only 43 percent of Polish bettors claimed they did not use the services of unregistered bookmakers.

Set up in 1997, STS holds about 46 percent of the country’s legal bookmaking market, according to figures from the business. In the first nine months of 2022, the company’s customers placed a total of PLN 3.3bn (€703m) in bets, it said.

In addition to its online operations, STS runs a network of more than 400 shops across the country. Brick-and-mortar shops represent 15 percent of the group’s revenues, and online betting is responsible for the remaining 85 percent, according to data from STS. The company is also active in the UK and Estonia.

STS is also suing Poland's Football Association in an attempt to recoup match losses it says were incurred due to match cancellations during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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