Sitting in Central Europe, the Republic of Poland boasts one of the most resilient economies on the continent and a Gross Domestic Product of over $524 billion for 2017 alone. The country’s population is estimated at around 38.06 million as of January 2019, ranking it 37th on the list of the world’s most populous nations.
Poland is also known for its thriving domestic market and low rates of unemployment. This is, in fact, the only post-Communist country in Europe whose economy did not suffer during the Great Recession that hit the world between the 2000s and the early 2010s.
It makes sense that gambling enjoys a good deal of popularity in one such high-income country. There are around 15 landbased casinos, located in the country’s most populous cities like Warsaw, Krakow, Poznan, and Lodz.
The online sports betting sector in Poland is not as well-developed as those of some Western European countries, with Gross Gaming Revenue (GGR) per person amounting to €2.5 per person as of 2015. In contrast, some of the biggest betting markets in Europe like the UK and Denmark boast GGR per person of €40.3 and €41.9, respectively.
This vast discrepancy in the figures may be attributed to Poland’s restrictive policy on online gambling as a whole. Online betting is allowed in the country as long as the operators have applied for and received domestic licenses, allowing them to offer their services to Poles legally.
In this article, you can first read about the current legal situation regarding sports betting in Poland and the most important amendments in the law that have helped shape the country’s betting industry as we know it today. Then we take a look at the market coverage at Poland-friendly online sportsbooks and finish off by introducing you to the available payment methods and promotional rewards for Polish online sports bettors.
Legality and Regulation of Sports Betting in Poland
Sports betting in Poland is regulated under the Act of Gambling Games of 2009, which was heavily amended in 2016. Landbased betting is operated by four Polish-based companies, namely the STS, Fortuna Entertainment, Totolotek, and Millenium. Each of these operators has also been granted a license, allowing it to legally accept sports bets over the internet.
Before the online gambling legislation of Poland was amended, offshore online sportsbooks had no legal right to offer their services to residents of the country. However, Poland recently changed its laws under the pressure of the European Union and opened its online gambling market to foreign competition. Offshore-licensed online sportsbooks can operate legally in the country as long as they have received valid licenses from the local regulatory authority, the Polish Ministry of Finance.
Foreign-based betting operators that offer their services without authorization on behalf of the regulator have their websites blocked and face heavy penalties. Yet, despite the penalization, unlicensed betting activities thrive in the country, with official reports showing us that as much as 60% of Poland’s sports betting market is controlled by unauthorized operators.
Despite the introduction of proper regulations, Polish punters are not facing immense diversity and choice in comparison to the residents of Europe’s largest betting markets like the UK, for example. The massive taxes the Polish regulator imposes on licensed online sportsbooks have drawn some of the largest betting companies away from the local market.
Each licensee is expected to contribute with a 12% tax on their turnover, which is rather high when compared to the taxation rates in other regulated European markets. Many major players in the sports betting industry have withdrawn their operations from Poland and have decided not to apply for domestic licenses altogether.
The licensing process itself is rather cumbersome. Prospective licensees must first submit technical documentation regarding their websites. Each operator also undergoes technical audits that aim at confirming the betting slips used on its website cannot be rigged by unauthorized entities. All the documentation must be translated into the Polish language by sworn translators. The entire process may sometimes take up to half a year.
Once a given sports betting operator has been approved, they are required to pay a one-off fee of PLN403,000 that covers the full period during which the permit remains valid. In addition, the licensees must pay annual taxes of 12% of the turnover they have generated in the country during the year. Quarterly reports must be provided to the Polish regulators as well. Those who breach the licensing terms risk having their licenses revoked.
Licensed sports betting operators are permitted to advertise their products to Poles as long as they meet several conditions. The ads must not be targeted toward underage persons and should provide information on the risks related to compulsive gambling. Additionally, those who advertise sports betting on television or radio must not do it between 6 o’clock in the morning and 10 o’clock in the evening.
Unlike many other countries with regulated sports betting, Poland imposes 10% taxes on the winnings of its punters if they exceed PLN2,280 (around €544). Sports bettors in the country have these taxes deducted automatically by the local operators. Those who wager on authorized offshore websites must pay the required taxes on their own.
The Polish authorities impose penalties both on unlicensed betting operators and on Poles who wager on unauthorized betting sites. However, small-scale punters are rarely legally persecuted by the authorities. The local regulator, the Ministry of Finance, has compiled a list of unlicensed foreign websites whose domains are blocked by the local internet services providers (ISPs). The list is updated on a regular basis, with more violators being blocked.
At the moment of writing, there are around 14 authorized sports betting operators that have received licenses from the Ministry of Finance. The lack of more options forces many Polish punters to bet on websites that lack domestic licenses, where they are facing greater diversity in terms of markets, events coverage, and promotional incentives.
Poland’s Sports Betting History and Key Laws
Gambling has always been subject to restrictive regulations in Poland, which makes sense when we take into account the fact the country has been under Communist rule from the end of World War II until the end of the 1980s. However, the country has managed to recover its civil liberties following the collapse of the Soviet Union and was officially welcomed into the European Union in 2004.
The EU membership sadly did little to liberalize Poland’s online gambling sector but let’s go back to the mid-20th century when Resolution No. 1010/55 was enacted by the Polish government, leading to the establishment of the state-owned Totalizator Sportowy in 1955. It commenced accepting wagers on soccer in the following year. This entity is also responsible for the operation of lotteries and number games like keno in Poland.
After the fall of the Communist regime, the new democratic republic started to shape its own betting laws. The year 1992 is considered a turning point in Poland’s gambling history as it saw the introduction of the 1992 Gambling Law, which tackled mainly the operations and regulation of landbased casinos. Under its provisions, new gambling venues were restricted only to cities where the population exceeded 250,000 residents.
At the turn of the 21st century, online betting started to gain increasing popularity among Polish citizens. A 2009-scandal with Miroslaw Drzewiecki, former Minister of Sports and Tourism, caused the country’s government to re-evaluate its stance on remote gambling and adopt a more restrictive approach toward online gaming activities.
This resulted in the 2009 Act on Gambling Games, which was amended in 2011, rendering all forms of remote gambling involving chance illegal in the country. An exception was made for online sports betting.
Polish lawmakers argued that the outcomes of wagers made on sports are not based on chance but on the performance and capabilities of the teams involved. This way, they believed, it was impossible to rig the outcome in favor of one of the two sides.
The law stipulated that bookmakers could offer their online services legally provided they have received a valid license by the Polish Ministry of Finance. However, the market was closed to foreign competition at the time because prospective licensees were required to have their operations based on the territory of the country. Other forms of online gambling, like poker and casino games, were completely outlawed.
The European Union pressured Poland into liberalizing its online gambling sector. This led to various amendments approved by the Polish Senate in the summer of 2016. The changes were enforced in April of the following year and opened the market to foreign competition, enabling offshore betting operators to apply for local licenses from the Polish Ministry of Finance.
Some of the provisions tackled the problem with unauthorized betting sites that service Polish customers without domestic licenses. Their domains were blocked, with the government adding the violators to a publicly accessible blacklist that is updated on a regular basis.
Owners of unlicensed websites are not officially informed when their domains are added to the blacklist. Measures are also taken to block payments conducted to such websites. Those who receive local licenses are required to pay a 12% tax on their annual turnover, a very high percentage that has dissuaded many betting operators from applying for a domestic license.
Many unauthorized websites manage to circumvent these restrictions and still accept registrations from the Polish market. Such operators are practically legitimate since they have received licenses from jurisdictions where online betting is well-regulated.
Poland Sports Betting Coverage and Markets
As sports wagering drives the Polish online betting market, keen sports fans from the country have their preferences satisfied by being able to punt on a huge number of popular competitions and leagues. Soccer ranks first in terms of popularity at Poland-friendly sportsbooks, where Poles can punt on a great variety of events from Ligue 1, the Premier League, La Liga, the Bundesliga, Primeira Liga, the Europa League, and the Champions League.
Domestic events also receive good coverage as punters are able to bet on various games from their local leagues, Puchar Polski (the Polish Cup) and Ekstraklasa. The main markets for soccer include match betting, next team to score a goal, over/under, first-half result, and correct score but more exotic alternatives like outright bets and handicaps are also available.
Basketball is hugely popular in the country and this high demand is catered to with a huge diversity of betting options. Wagers are accepted on events from the NBA, the Euroleague, the NCAA, the Eurocup, and the Polish Liga Koszykówki (PLK). Popular basketball bet types include match and handicap betting, first-half winner, and total points.
Poles who are keen on volleyball can pick and choose from numerous events from the Polish PlusLiga and the PSK. Motorsports like the Formula 1 races have also registered a surge of popularity which is to be explained with Poland’s Robert Kubica joining the competition as a BMW Sauber racing driver in 2006.
Additionally, Polish punters have a choice from a huge number of other sports, which include boxing, mixed martial arts, cycling, tennis, golf, horse and greyhound racing, cricket, ice hockey, and eSports. Casual bettors can even choose from a variety of non-sports-related options. They can try to predict which movie will win in the category of Best Motion Picture at the Academy Awards or guess the outcome of the EU Parliamentary elections.
The interface of Poland-friendly sportsbooks is normally quite simplified, allowing Poles to jump from one category to another without any hassles. The bet slips are also rather intuitive even if you lack experience with punting on the web.
You can make multiple single bets or combine several wagers into an accumulator. However, the latter is preferable only if you are experienced punter who is familiar enough with a given sport to predict correctly multiple results. The bet slips would normally display your open bets, previously settled wagers, and your accumulators, making it easy for you to keep track of your activity.
Your potential returns are automatically calculated on the basis of the amount staked and the odds you have accepted. In-play betting and pre-match wagers are both available at Poland-friendly betting sites, with many operators offering live streams of the biggest competitions in the sporting universe. You can punt from the convenience of your home or take your betting action with you on the go. All renowned bookmaking sites are compatible with tablets and smartphones.
Popular Odds Format in Poland
Usability and functionality are at the core of all good Poland-friendly sportsbooks, which is why they normally give Polish punters a choice from three popular forms of odds expression, the American moneyline format (eg. +175), the fractional format (eg. 7/4), and decimals (eg. 2.75). Poles are accustomed to using the decimal format of the odds which is also preferred by bookmakers across Continental Europe.
It is not surprising decimals are so commonly used by European bookies, especially if we take into consideration the simplicity they present bettors with. The decimal format renders it possible for any sports bettor, no matter how experienced they are, to calculate their overall returns from a successful punt within a few seconds. Note that we said the “overall returns”, which means the initial amount you have wagered is also included in the result.
This is easy to achieve since the only thing needed is to multiply the amount staked by the decimal odds your bookie offers you. To give you a better understanding, here is an example – you are looking to back your favorite Polish soccer team, say Górnik Zabrze, with a bet of PLN50 at odds of 3.20. Your total returns will amount to PLN50 * 3.20 = PLN160, or PLN110 in net winnings plus your original PLN50 wager.
One way to tell whether any given bet is a good investment or not is by figuring out its implied probability, i.e. the conversion of the offered odds into a percentage that shows you the likelihood of an outcome occurring.
This is easily done when you use decimal odds since the equation is quite simple – [1/decimal number) * 100. Respectively, the implied probability of Górnik Zabrze earning you PLN110 in net winnings at odds of 3.20 is [1/3.20] * 100 = 0.3125 * 100 = 31.25%.
In this vein, it is worth mentioning there are specialized websites that can convert odds from one format to another and calculate the implied probability of your bets. Feel free to use those if you are not fast enough at performing the calculations yourself.
Payment Solutions for Sports Bettors from Poland
The Polish Zloty (PLN) is the country’s legal tender so it makes sense for local punters to prefer it over other currencies when depositing or withdrawing from web-based sportsbooks. The PLN is accepted by all licensed websites that conduct payments with Polish punters but most of the unauthorized online sportsbooks may not support it, forcing Poles to process their transfers in the EUR or the USD, in which case, there are usually additional charges for currency exchange.
The diversity of accepted banking methods is a key factor to consider when picking an online sportsbook. Figures released by Statista indicate most residents of the country prefer direct payments through their local banks but if you insist on more anonymity, there is the option to use third-party payment gateways that rely on online banking.
One such method suitable for Polish punters is their local Przelewy24, which has its headquarters in the town of Poznan. This method enables you to transfer money without having to disclose any sensitive information about card and bank account numbers to anyone but your local bank. Naturally, you must hold an account at one of the 286 supported banks and register for its online banking platform. Another suitable platform is PayU, which also operates on the principle of online banking.
Other easy and efficient methods you can use to fund your account include cards by Visa and Mastercard along with the digital-wallet services provided by ecoPayz, Skrill, and Neteller, vouchers by Paysafecard, and prepaid virtual cards by Entropay.
Note that if you are punting on a foreign site without a local license and deposit with a card, you might end up having your transactions blocked. The country’s authorities try to combat illegal betting by routinely blocking card payments made to operators without domestic licenses.
Another important aspect you need to consider when selecting a sportsbook is the processing time. Be sure to check the terms page of your sportsbook of choice to ensure it processes payments in a timely manner.
Bonuses and Rewards for Sports Bettors from Poland
All renowned Poland-friendly sportsbooks provide punters with a huge range of great bonuses and promotional deals. The betting action normally commences with a nice welcome package. In many cases, the welcome bonus consists of a given percentage (usually 100%) of the money you have deposited for the first time.
Another common way to incentivize new customers is by treating them to free bets which enable them to make wagers without risking too much of their own money. Such bonuses are granted after the punter has deposited and placed a bet on a qualifying event at the minimum stipulated odds or higher.
The most generous sportsbooks would sometimes offer you a no-deposit bonus you can receive simply for registering. These bonuses are smaller in size but pose as a good way to add more value to your online betting. They are usually available when a major sporting competition, like the World Cup, is underway.
Other common forms of rewarding customers and keeping them motivated include the bonuses on their losses and the reload bonuses. The former are especially great for people who punt regularly and end up losing many of their bets. Make sure you check the promotional conditions, though, since all these bonuses come with various sportsbook-specific requirements like minimum rollover and odds.
Customer Support at Poland Betting Sites
Professional customer support is an inseparable part of the operations of any decent Poland-friendly betting site. A reputable operator appreciates its patrons and strives to provide them with a seamless experience, void of hassles and technical issues.
If you do happen to experience a problem, being able to solve it quickly with the help of the sportsbook’s support team is of vital importance. Therefore, you need to look for an online bookie that provides quality support around the clock, preferably via a live-chat facility. This would be the fastest way to contact support and get immediate assistance.
Emailing is often an option but it takes several hours to get a response. Telephone support is also usually available but some operators may charge you additionally for international calls. Last but not least, do pick a sportsbook whose website and support are available in Polish, if possible, as language may sometimes be a formidable barrier to effective communication.