Poland’s Senate approved a measure limiting gambling to casinos, stunting access to poker and other games outside of a structured establishment. The bill cleared the Senate by a 48 to 3 margin, with 30 lawmakers not voting.
The Krakow Post noted that the new crackdown on gambling outside of licensed casinos may also spell trouble for internet gambling and online poker: “The legislation also affects Internet gambling, which will no longer be allowed under Polish law. However, the enforcement of this aspect of the bill will inevitably prove much more difficult than even the removal of thousands of slot machines.” Around 50,000 slot machines, which can be found in places like bars and restaurants around the country, will be removed as a result of the new law.
Polish President Lech Kaczynski must still apply his John Hancock to the piece of legislation in order for it to become official. The Post quoted Poland’s Prime Minister as saying that he expects Kaczynski to sign by the end of the month. In addition to ridding the European country of 50,000 slot machines and potentially slowing the growth of internet gambling, the bill passed by Polish lawmakers also sets a legal gambling age of 18.
The Agence France Presse, or AFP news service, shed some light into this month’s vote: “The decision by parliament comes nearly a month and a half after [Prime Minister] Tusk was forced to sack several key ministers and political allies over allegations of influence peddling within his cabinet regarding the gambling legislation.” World Bulletin explained what a portion of the funds raised will be used for: “Tusk has said the restrictions will prevent young people from becoming addicted to gambling. The government will funnel tax revenues raised under the bill into foundations promoting physical education and culture.”
No general election is scheduled in Poland until 2011 and the scandal in question involved casino owners. The new bill also increases the tax rate on casinos, helping raise additional money for Poland’s government. On the TwoPlusTwo forums, a translated article that originally appeared on Bankier.pl revealed that the tax rate on tournament poker would also increase as part of the new measure, although this component was not reported by the AFP or World Bulletin. TwoPlusTwo poster “novahunterpa” commented, “Looks like every country is either trying to ban online poker and gambling or restrict it to state monopolies.”
One month ago, Poland saw the invasion of the PokerStars-sponsored European Poker Tour (EPT), which made its annual stop in Warsaw. The 25,000 PLN buy-in event was held at the Casinos Poland Hyatt Regency and French businessman Christophe Benzimra emerged victorious from the 203 player field. The online poker site claimed that EPT Warsaw was one of the largest poker tournaments ever held in Poland. No indication has been given as to whether the new law will affect the EPT’s Season 7 Warsaw stop.
Among those keeping a watchful eye on the situation in the European country was Interactive Media Entertainment and Gaming Association (iMEGA) Chairman Joe Brennan, who told Poker News Daily, “The genie is out of the bottle when it comes to online gambling. Whether it’s restricting it for consumer protection or guaranteeing the franchise for Poland’s brick and mortar casinos, the fact is that the Polish people have already voted with their feet, their wallets, and their computers by seeking out online gambling. Poland is going to have a hard time putting the genie back in the bottle, as would any country.”
Notable poker personalities hailing from Poland include Poker Hall of Fame member Henry Orenstein, a WSOP bracelet winner who also invented the hole card camera. Orenstein was born in Hrubieszów and currently lives in the United States. Michael Gracz was born in Warsaw and, like Orenstein, now calls the USA home.