A group of cross-party Polish MPs has joined repeated calls for the government to move away from a turnover tax they claim is pushing bettors to the black market.
The Consumer and Entrepreneurs’ Protection Team of the Sejm, the lower chamber of the Polish parliament, has issued an official policy proposal document to the country’s Ministry of Finance, requesting that the ministry introduces a gross gaming revenue (GGR) tax on bookmaking.
“Most of the countries in the world, including in Europe, have switched from a revenue tax to a GGR tax over the past years,” the lawmakers say in the document.
“In Europe, only six countries have a tax on bookmaking that is based on revenues, and its rate is the highest in Poland.”
The MPs from the team also claim the government’s hesitancy to introduce such a levy results from the fact that the finance ministry has incorrect data that underestimates the real value of Poland’s unlicensed betting sector.
Referring to figures provided to the parliamentary team by a representative of the finance ministry, the lawmakers said the ministry estimates the Polish illegal online bookmaking sector to represent 8.2 percent of the total market or PLN155m (€33.6m) in lost GGR per year.
By contrast, international consultancy EY claims the actual figure is significantly higher, at more than PLN1.2bn (€260m) in annual lost GGR.
To make their case, the lawmakers also referred to a 2021 opinion poll which indicates that only 43 percent of Polish bettors claim they do not use the services of unregistered bookmakers.
Despite Poland’s amended gambling law of 2016 that introduced tighter regulations to combat unlicensed operators, offshore operators continue to attract a sizable share of the Polish market.
This comes despite Poland blocking local users from accessing non-licensed gambling websites since 2017 via a blacklist that comprises more than 25,000 web addresses.
The policies proposed by the lower house MPs are largely in line with the demands formulated by Poland’s gambling sector.
Among others, the local industry association PIGBRiB has called on the Cabinet to introduce a 22 percent GGR tax on gambling, including bookmaking, claiming that the country’s tax policies make the Polish market unattractive to the majority of established international bookmakers.
“These measures would definitely increase the budget revenues, expand the legal market by several hundred percent, and ensure efficient protection to Polish players,” according to the lawmakers.
The parliamentary team is chaired by Michał Jaros, an MP for the opposition Civic Coalition (KO) club, but its members include lawmakers from both the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party and opposition groups such as the Left (Lewica), Confederation (Konfederacja) and the Polish Coalition-Polish Peasants' Party (KP-PSL).
Last January, Poland’s deputy finance minister Jan Sarnowski disclosed in an official document that the ministry was analysing the possibility of replacing the country’s existing 12 percent revenue tax on bookmaking with a GGR tax.
The ministry continues to “analyse the existing regulations in the field of gambling with regards to compliance with the provisions of the [gambling] law by entities [active in this market] which also constitutes a reaction to the needs of this market”, Sarnowski said in a reply to a request for information from a Polish lawmaker.
“One of the fields in which such analytical work is carried out is the tax on bookmaking within the context of a potential change of the tax base from the current sum of paid bets to a difference between the paid bets and paid out winnings,” according to the deputy minister.