Poland is an Eastern European country that situated on the Baltic Sea with roughly 88% of its population being Roman Catholic. The country is known for its many remarkable cities, beach resorts, forests, destinations for skiing, swimming, boating, and trekking, among other things.
Despite the high percentage of religious devotees, gambling has become very active in this part of Europe. Today there are numerous gambling activities and casino facilities operating within this intriguing market with strange laws.
Below is a list of all casinos currently operating in the regions of Poland.
Casinos Poland – Bielsko-Biała at the President Hotel
Casinos Poland – Katowice at Park Inn by Radisson
Casinos Poland – Warsaw at Hilton Hotel
Casinos Poland – Warsaw at Marriott Hotel
Casinos Poland – Wrocław at Double Tree by Hilton Hotel
Hit Casino – Kraków
Hit Casino – Lublin
Hit Casino – Opole
Hit Casino – Rzeszow
Hit Casino – Tychy
Hit Casino – Warsawza
Hotel Plock & Casino
Orbis Casino at City Hotel, Bydgoszcz
Orbis Casino at Grand Hotel Sopot
Orbis Casino at Hotel Novotel Katowice Centrum
Orbis Casino at Hotel Novotel Poznan Centrum
Orbis Casino at Neptune Orbis Hotel
While the actual debut of gambling in Poland is undocumented, the country was subjected to Russian and Prussian gambling laws during their respective reigns in the 18th century. The law of June 15, 1777, established a framework for the organization of lottery games. The very first lottery to be organized was on September 1, 1786, by the State Treasury.
After the First World War came to an end in November 1918, a casino opened in the northern part of the country; more precisely, the city of Sopot. The casino, often called the Sopot Casino, was more of a renovation than a construction of its own. The casino was a result of the numerous rooms and halls in the southern wing of the Inn Kuracyjny House, built in 1907, being reconstructed to be suitable for casino games. Open to players 21 years or older, the Weinkuppel winery became Kasino-Bar while the Yellow Hall and the Blue Hall became a baccarat room and a roulette room respectively.
In August 1921, a company called Zoppoter Kasino G.m.b.H was established to run the Sopot Casino. Two years later, construction engineer Richard Kohnke was employed to construct a brand new building for the casino. The building was designed to be as spacious as possible, with roulette and baccarat being the only games available.
Due to the widespread success of the Sopot Casino and the impressive revenues generated in a short period of time, Hotel Kuracyjny was constructed and opened on June 26, 1927 to provide accommodations for players from all over the continent.
Shortly thereafter, a handful of casinos emerged in Warsaw and Kraków. Unfortunately, as the Second World War began with the invasion of Poland by Nazi Germany and later by the Soviet Union, the Sopot Casino (in 1945) and other casinos shut down operations due to damages by the Red Army.
On December 17, 1955, a national lottery was introduced with a sole purpose of constructing and renovating sports facilities. The lottery; Totalizator Sportowy, came into existence on January 25, 1956. This was when communist Poland declared all forms of gambling illegal except the lottery. Nonetheless, gambling was still active in the country thanks to the Polish Baltic Shipping Co., better known as Polferries, even though it was on a small scale. The company provided passengers with slot machines, roulette, and blackjack in small gambling houses on its ferries.
Fast forward, Casinos Poland opened the first modern casino in the country on July 15, 1989. Thanks to its success, the company established a number of other casinos across major Polish areas. However, Poland did not adopt its own gambling law until 1992 when the political crisis was over. The Act on Games and Betting declared that sports betting, games of chance, card/gambling games, and slot machines were legal.
Betting is divided into bookmaking and totalisator systems. For gambling, blackjack, baccarat, and poker are the only specific games mentioned. Games of chance include all dice games, lotteries (cash, raffle, audiotele, and promotional), bingo (cash, raffle, and tele), cylindrical games (roulette, etc.), and number games.
The single restriction the law imposed was that there could only be one casino operating in cities with less than 250,000 people (i.e. one casino per 250,000 people), and the operators must have nothing less than PLN 3.9 million.
Due to the lenient laws, many foreign operators entered the gambling market with bingo halls and casinos across the qualified cities. At the same time online gambling was also maturing. This continued until 2009 when the famous Gambling Scandal broke out. Miroslaw Drzewiecki, the then-Minister of Sport and Tourism, was involved in this scandal. He later confessed in front of the Parliamentary Investigative Commission to have stimulated a corrupt online gambling market.
Afterwards, Donald Tusk, the Prime Minister at that time, got furious and started a war against online gambling, especially online casinos. The Gambling Act came into effect on November 19 of that year, which declared all forms of online gambling illegal – with the exception of lotteries and sports betting. Also, casinos could only be operated by local companies to avoid ‘foreign exploitation.’ The worst part was the excessive taxes each casino and gambling facility were required to pay.
When summed up, the act created a deplorable gambling market that led to many operators leaving the country. This resulted in a meagre amount of casinos and bingo halls left in operation. An Amendment to the Gambling Act was enacted on June 30, 2011. Slot machines were limited to 70 per casino. The Amendment resolved the issue of online gambling—but accordingly, only registered operators with physical facilities in Poland and owned by Polish citizens could apply for a license. Players were also required to pay a 10 percent tax on their sports betting winnings.
Seeing that such rules are against the scope of the European Union, the European Commission advised the Polish authorities to revise the Act. Shortly, an amendment was signed into law, which allowed operators from other EU territories to offer their gambling services in Poland, but the operator must have a physical facility in Poland and a Polish-speaking spokesperson.
As expected, the European Court of Justice shortly ruled against this, stating such laws should be notified to the EU before signing and passing it. Local and foreign commentators also opposed the laws. After many comments and debates, the first development was a 2013 law that allows e-wallets (such as Skrill and Neteller) and other payment services to process gambling transactions.
In March 2015, the authorities lifted the requirement that made it impossible for foreign gambling operators without a physical branch to operate in the country; the European Commission delightfully approved it.
A draft amendment was introduced in September 2016 and the Gambling Act was ultimately amended in 2017, with the amendment coming into force on April 1. The amendment introduced a blocking system (which was launched on April 26) for Internet Service Providers to block gambling websites operated by unlicensed operators. Also, financial institutions and payment services were ordered to stop processing transactions related to unlicensed gambling.
What’s more, only state-owned operators were now allowed to operate slot machines in the country, outside casinos. For violating the law, certain administrative fines were set in place for operators and players. Kodeks karny and Kodeks karny skarbowy (the Penal Code and the Fiscal Penal Code respectively) also impose a number of criminal penalties on gambling.
Today, Poland has one of the strictest gambling laws and regulations in the whole European continent. Operators must meet harsh requirements and a slight violation result in penalties and fines. Finding detailed information on gambling activities are impossible online due to the Gambling Act of November 19, 2009.
Nonetheless, gambling is a lucrative industry in Poland and a February 2014 statistics estimated the gambling market to be €1 billion or more in revenues. The statistics also stated that unlicensed operators generate 91 percent of the revenues.
Today gambling is legal in Poland and many forms and activities are decreed legal according to the gambling laws. The 18 casinos currently operating throughout the length and breadth of the country are governed by the Ministry of Finance (allocated to the Department of Games of Chance and Betting). The Ministry oversees all gambling activities except horse racing and lotteries, handles the licensing of casinos, and issues permits for bingo halls and betting shops. The National Revenue Administration (NRA) supervises the market and issues permits for specific gambling activities. For taxes and fines, the Tax and Customs Office is in charge.
Even though Polish casinos are neither massive nor impressively equipped, they are just enough to satisfy the casino gambling urge of any local or foreign player. Casinos are always attached to large hotels; so after intense activities, visitors can sit back and relish a variety of gaming machines and table games. The casino environment and gambling atmosphere are always calming, uncrowded, and pleasant. Also, the employees are trained professionally to be as polite and helpful as possible.
Based on several replies to a question on Quora, many foreigners can testify to Poles’ friendliness towards tourists as they describe the natives’ behaviour using words such as kind, helpful, amazing, and trusting. Interestingly, Poles are said to help non-natives even without understanding their language. Hence, players from anywhere in the world would find it pleasing to visit and gamble in Poland.
With a population of 37.95 million (2016), Polish citizens and residents most commonly speak Polish, English, Russian, German, French, Italian, Spanish, Ukrainian, Czech, Hebrew, Lithuanian, Armenian, Yiddish, Slovak, Belarusian, and minor languages such as Kashubian, Polska Roma, and Tatar.
Pertaining to currencies, most casinos have foreign currency exchange counters where players can exchange the official legal tender, Polish złoty (PLN), to Euro, British Pound, US Dollar, and other widespread currencies.
In Poland, casinos are evenly scattered throughout the areas. In fact, only Wroclaw, Kraków, and the capital city of Warsaw have a decent number of casinos; others have one or two. The following Polish cities are in the latter classification: Plock, Katowice, Bielsko-Biała, Szczecin, Sopot, Poznan, Bydgoszcz, Tychy, Rzeszów, Opole, and Lublin.
The flagship casino in Poland is Casinos Poland – Warsaw at Marriott Hotel, which features precisely 70 gaming machines and 27 gaming tables in its gaming space of 8,070 sq ft. Other casinos operated by Casinos Poland have similar figures.
Meanwhile, the remaining casinos—either operated by Hit Casino, Orbis Casino, or independently—offer a small number of gaming machines and tables. The typical casino usually features 30 machines and five tables.
In general, casinos in Poland are unabridged facilities incorporated in three to five-star hotels. Hence, hospitality services such as refined accommodations, restaurants, bars, spas, gyms, pools, and meeting rooms are provided to deliver generous and friendly entertainment and reception for locals and foreigners. The remaining standalone casinos are strategically situated near hotels and/or resorts.
For casino games, there are varieties in place. In addition to Slot Machines, players can enjoy American Roulette, Pai-Gow Poker, Classic Blackjack, Poker Plus, 7 Card Stud Poker, Baccarat, Mini Poker, and Casinos Poland Poker (in casinos operated by Casinos Poland). And as mentioned earlier, the authorities have imposed a limit of just 70 slot machines in any casino no matter the size or customer base.
Particularly, poker games are only allowed in casinos and are quite popular amongst local and foreign players. Equally, bingo games are popular and they are available in bingo halls and lottery outlets across the country.
Pertaining to lotteries, the Totalizator Sportowy and Totolotek organises all lottery and lottery-related games. These are Lotto, Lotto Plus, Multi Multi, Zdrapki (Scratch), Kaskada (Cascade), Mini Lotto, Keno, Ekstra Pensja (Extra Salary), Super Szansa (Super Chance), and the transnational European lottery, Eurojackpot.
All of these lottery games are available in more than 16,000 outlets practically on every Polish street and are organised from any time players want (e.g. Zdrapki) and every four minutes (e.g. Keno) to twice a day (e.g. Super Szansa) and once a week (e.g. Eurojackpot). Additionally, prizes range from tens of thousands to hundreds of millions of PLN.
Racing is another popular form of gambling in Poland. In fact, Poland is one of the very few countries with a specific regulatory agency for horse racing. There are four racetracks presently regulated by the Polski Klub Wyścigów Konnych—namely Służewiec Warszawa, Partynice Wrocław, Hipodrom Sopot, and Krakowski Tor Wyścigów Konnych—where pari-mutuel betting on thoroughbred horse races is offered.
Similar to other European countries, sports betting is a flagship in Poland. The natives love it and operators run thousands of betting shops across the regions. The only sports betting operators are Totolotek, Fortuna Entertainment, STS, and Millenium. Apparently, football/soccer is the most widespread sport; tennis, baseball, volleyball, basketball, ice hockey, and motorcycle speedway are eligible runner-ups.
When it comes to online gambling, Polish gambling laws are not so tolerant of its subjects gambling on the Internet—especially on unlicensed gambling websites. Apart from unlicensed online gambling being illegal according to law, the laws also institute penalties on both operators and players involved. Basically, Poles and tourists in Poland should only visit licensed gambling websites to avoid being prosecuted.
– To enter a casino in Poland, players must tender their respective government-issued valid ID card to verify their age, which must be 18 years or older.
– In 2001, the Polski Klub Wyścigów Konnych (Polish Horse Racing Club) was created under the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development of the Republic of Poland. The state-owned, Warsaw-based agency is subjected to two laws: the Statute of the Polish Horse Racing Club of September 20, 2001, and the Act on Horse Racing of January 18, 2001. The Club is divided into the Breeding and Racing Department, Organisational Department, and Stud Books Registry Office, and has two individual posts: one for internal inspection and auditing, the other for accounting and financial affairs. It handles the licensing, regulations, and supervision of races, racetracks, breeding, promotions, training, race judges, commissions, and everything in-between. The most recent law passed by the Club came into effect on April 19, 2016. According to the 2016.04.19 Horse Racing Rules, all riders are required to have accident insurance and avoid overusing their respective whip on their horse. Also, riders who have not took first prize in 10 races in their professional career cannot ride horses that are just debuting.
– Founded in 1988, Casinos Poland Sp. z o.o. is a Warsaw-based subsidiary of Century Casinos, Inc. The five casinos owned and operated by Casinos Poland altogether offer a variety of approximately 300 slot machines. With an increase of 10 percent, the company generated a total of PLN 7.6 million in Q2 2016.
– At a point, there were almost 50 casinos in Poland. But for diverse reasons, a lot of them have shut down permanently. For one, Casinos Poland has shut down about five casinos due to restrictions and lack of permissions resulting from the Gambling Act. Other closed casinos include the Casino at Hotel Wyspiański, Orbis Casino (Cracovia Hotel, Gdansk, Silver Screen Entertainment Center, Sofitel Victoria Hotel, etc.), the Casino at Mieszko Hotel, Royal Casino (Warsaw and Kraków), Star Casino, Twister, Casino Lubuszanin, Fortuna Casino, Golden Play Casino, Amusement Casino, Casino Polonia, and Grand Casino.
– Particularly, Olympic Entertainment Group AS (OEG)—a key casino company in Eastern Europe—once owned and operated six casinos under its subsidiaries Casino Polonia-Wroclaw sp. z.o.o. and Ultramedia sp. z.o.o. However, it exited the market in September 2017 after the Polish Ministry of Finance rejected the licence renewal application for Casino Polonia-Wroclaw—which operated Warsaw Olympic Casino Sunrise, its flagship that had been in operation for nine years—in September 2016. Reportedly, this was because the subsidiary exceeded the September 23 deadline pronounced by the authorities before submitting its paperwork. It later filed a bankruptcy petition in January 2017. In the same quarter OEG excited the market, the company generated €9.8 million with a profit of €5.6 million.
– Orbis Casino was a subsidiary of the Orbis Hotel Group (registered as ORBIS S.A.) until the group sold all of its shares—which was 33 percent of the brand—to Media Express in Q1 2011 for PLN 5 million. Prior to the sale, Orbis Casino operated at more than 10 locations; today, there are only five in operation.
– According to Key To Casino, there are more than 640 gambling websites accessible to Polish players.
– In addition to Totalizator Sportowy and Totolotek, the state also runs a lottery called Polski Monopol Loteryjny (PML), which is currently undergoing liquidation.
– The Fortuna Entertainment Group—a leading betting operator in Central Europe—has a subsidiary in Poland: Fortuna Entertainment Poland. Fortuna online Zakłady bukmacherskie Sp. z o.o. is its online gambling brand—which is one of the most popular online gambling operators in the country—and its online bookmaker, eFortuna.pl, provides Polish punters with sports betting (including virtual and live). Also, Totolotek, Millineum, and STS run Totolotek.pl, Millineum.pl, and STS.pl respectively.
– According to Internet Live Stats, 72.4 percent of Poles have access to the Internet. This could have established a massive online gambling market but only the two state-owned operators and three private operators are licensed to offer online gambling in the country. There are no online casinos, poker sites, etc.
– Reportedly, STS is the biggest bookmaker in Poland. And to buttress that spot, the bookmaker partnered with the Polish Esport League (Polska Liga Esportowa) in February 2018 as the official sponsor of the national eSports league. Surprisingly, the deal is expected to end in late-2018, which means it is not up to a year. Further, STS was the first bookmaker to offer eSports in Poland—as far back as 2014—and has signed a sponsorship deal with an eSports team and an eSports pro player prior to the Polish Esport League deal.
– The state-owned Totalizator Sportowy Sp. z o.o. is a registered member of the European State Lotteries and Toto Association. In addition to its offline provision in the several outlets across the country, Lotto.pl is its online platform where players can play any of its lottery games. On March 1, 2018, the company partnered with UK-based Playtech to develop its online casino platform. Lottery games have also been broadcasted live nationwide on TVP Info since May 1, 2013.
– Pertaining to Bitcoin gambling, the issue is quite complicated and very controversial. Bitcoin (and cryptocurrencies, in general) has a steady community of users, traders, miners, and enthusiasts in Poland. For one, Coin ATM Radar currently lists a total number of 20 Bitcoin ATMs in Poland: 12 in Warsaw, six in Kraków, one in Wrocław, and one in Bialystok.
– Due to its widespread use, Mateusz Morawiecki, the Prime Minister of Poland, recently called the crypto market a Ponzi scheme. However, the government generally believes Blockchain to be a very useful innovation for the banking industry. Soon, the Ministry of Finance—on April 4, 2018—announced on its website that the Ministry would commence collecting VAT, PIT, and PCC taxes of either 18 or 32 perfect on all cryptocurrency transactions. The cryptocurrency community shortly initiated a petition to protest the verdict by launching a petition on Change.org and also creating the website StopRegulacjom.pl. As of May 29, 2018, more than 5,800 people have signed the petition on Change.org but the requirement states 7,500 people.
– But before this drama, the Narodowy Bank Polski (National Bank of Poland) created a campaign in December 2017 to wage war against cryptocurrencies. According to the dedicated website UwazajNaKryptowaluty.pl, “Virtual currencies are not money… Cryptocurrencies are not currencies… [They] are not ‘electronic money’ within the meaning of the law.”
– In January 2018, the government showed an interest in regulating cryptocurrencies under the AML (Anti-Money Laundering) Regulations with the believe that they are used for tax evasion and money laundering. In the following month, the Narodowy Bank Polski admitted to have started a secret anti-cryptocurrency campaign by paying diverse social media celebrities or brands a sum of PLN 91,000 to broadcast the risks of cryptocurrencies and plant the seeds of fear in the minds of Poles. Interestingly, the campaign was funded in collaboration with the Ireland subsidiaries of Google and Facebook, and Gamellon.
– Despite the strange anti-cryptocurrency approaches, the Narodowy Bank Polski sponsored a cryptocurrency called dPLN (digital PLN) in 2017, which was later abandoned as the news broke out. Meanwhile, Bitcoin and many other coins are widely available in Poland thanks to the extensive list of exchanges and wallets (e.g. LocalBitcoins, Coinbase, and Paxful) that accept Poles. But because of the aforementioned restrictions, WCI advises Polish players to keep off Bitcoin gambling to avoid being prosecuted or given a fine.
– On November 18, 2014, the website of the Polish Ministry of Finance announced a serious warning against gambling online on offshore websites. According to the announcement, such players could be given a fine or ordered to face a criminal charge. The announcement also stated that the Ministry has gathered information about over 24,000 Polish players who actively gambled on offshore websites in 2013. Reportedly, about 71 percent won more than PLN 27 million, which resulted to criminal investigations of more than 1,100 cases. The Ministry threatened to prosecute the highest-earning players.
– The General Regulation on the Protection of Personal Data of April 27, 2016, governs the collection and use of data online.
– Strangely, gambling operators can propel their customers and workers to determine and resolve disputes in mediation or arbitration procedures bound by religious decree, not by state or government law.
– Over the years, many Polish players have won huge amounts of money in Casinos Poland establishments. In 2009, a pro poker player won more than PNL 2 million in Warsaw at now-defunct Casinos Poland (Hyatt Hotel) in the European Poker Tour. On October 15 of the same year, a slot machine player won PLN 400,000 in Katowice at Casinos Poland (Park Inn by Radisson). In 2011, another slot machine player won PLN 1.7 million in Warsaw at Casinos Poland (Marriott Hotel).
– A Warsaw engineer named Glinski won a whopping sum of PLN 3.5 million (more than €820,000 at the time) on July 23, 1928, playing roulette in the Sopot Casino.
– Another player won an undocumented amount of money in the Sopot Casino and reportedly gave PLN 175,000 to charity.
– In 2017, William Hill among others pulled out of the Polish market in response to the blocking system.