The latest figures show how Poland has the potential to become one of the most relevant gaming markets. With gambling revenue worth almost €5bn in 2020 (source: KasynoHEX Poland), it is currently the most interesting and lucrative Eastern European market. In comparison, the Croatian gaming industry is worth only around €350m, while a much bigger Russian market managed to generate only close to €600m.

So what makes the Polish gambling industry so special, and is it just a fad or here to stay?

Legal vs illegal gambling in Poland

Like many other countries, Poland is experiencing a great increase in not only the number of players but companies that enter the market as well. Following the amendments to the Gambling Act in 2017, the industry noted rapid growth although the Polish gaming legislative is one of the most restrictive in entire Europe. To put things into perspective, in 2015 the industry generated revenue estimated at €0.11bn, only to experience an astonishing increase. In 2018, the market was worth €1.82bn, and in 2020, €5bn.

Unlike many other EU states (especially those that entered the bloc relatively recently), Poland includes both online and land-based casinos and sportsbooks into its regulatory framework, which makes Polish consumers more protected than in other countries. Well, at least on paper, it does. In real life, the average Polish player can choose between a state-owned brand and an illegal casino.
Despite the great growth, the authorities are struggling with the illegal gambling market, and brands that are using deceiving, unethical, and downright sneaky tactics to attract customers.

The financial aspect of illegal gaming shouldn't be disregarded easily either – it is believed how unregulated companies hold 50 per cent of the market, which highly affects not only Polish citizens, but state treasury as well. At the moment, there is a 12 per cent tax on sports betting turnover, which discourages smaller companies from gaining a licence. For them, it is more profitable to operate illegally, under licence provided by Curacao and other less diligent authorities.

State-operated casinos rule the industry

One thing that distinguishes Poland and its gaming market from many others is that this country still relies on its socialist heritage of state-owned companies, including sportsbooks and gambling venues. Number games, slots (other than those in casinos), cash lotteries, telebingo, are subject to state monopoly and can therefore only be offered by a state-owned operator. Online LTD companies are only allowed to offer sports betting and promotional lotteries.

This means that sports betting is basically monopolized by the state-owned bookie Totalizator Sportowy, that also holds a licence for online casino and lotteries. Even though there are more than 10 licensed online casino brands run by LTDs that were courageous enough to offer only two available types of gambling, Polish players can't indulge in great deals and offers by gaming giants and high-end brands such as William Hill, and Unibet that have withdrawn from the market and don't accept Polish customers anymore.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Finance is doing its best to block all illegal and unlicensed websites and has seized more than 60,000 slot machines to protect the state's monopoly in the gambling industry. It seems that the Polish gambling industry really is growing, but the question remains for how long the state-owned companies can compete with illegal brands that simply delight customers with innovative games and new deals on an everyday basis. 

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