Polish gambling regulations rapped

Draft regulations shows signs of Internet censorship, says EU body

With all the furore over government corruption and draconian new anti-gambling regulations going on in Poland over the past month, it is not surprising that observers have lost sight of a draft due for discussion next week on Internet gambling measures. And the content does not look promising.

The Office of the Committee for European Integration (UKIE) brought the issue back into sharp focus this week when it criticised the Polish government draft measures for the control and presumably restriction of online gambling. The publication Gazeta Wyborcza picked up the comments, which were subsequently carried by other Polish media outlets.

UKIE apparently does not like provision in the regulations that suggest ISP blocking, a move which the Australian and Italian governments discovered the hard way is guaranteed to get both taxpayers and Internet freedom bodies in a censorship lather.

Gazeta Wyborcza claims that there are several hundred thousand players in Poland who gamble on the internet and will not accept censorship easily.

"Officially, online gambling is currently forbidden however there are no tools to execute these regulations," the publication reports.

The new regulations envisage that Internet service providers would have to block access to internet sites at the direction of government officials from the Polish tax offices, the Internal Security Agency (ABW) or the police, a prospect that raises the spectre of official and possibly covert censorship.

In the Australian debacle the government agency concerned had to face some embarrassing questions regarding nonsensical and irrelevant bans imposed by uninformed government bureaucrats (see previous InfoPowa reports).

Like the Australian issue last year, Polish bureaucrats plan to build a register of forbidden Internet sites, which will also include paedophile and Fascist related websites. Before the draft bill is voted on in the Sejm it will have to be sent to the European Commission to assure that it does not violate any rights, as Poland is a member nation in the EU.

Meanwhile, reports on the overall ban on gambling outside of casinos in Poland indicate that the sections of the new law that prohibit marketing and advertising of non-casino gambling may not apply to foreign companies involved in lucrative sports sponsorships with Polish football clubs.

Observers claim that companies falling into this category have been exempted from the advertising provisions insofar as they will be permitted to display their company names or other branding and marking on shirts, banners and billboards. But no advertising directing customers to websites is permitted.

Companies such as Expekt, Bwin, Unibet and Betclic are all known to be involved in multi million Euro sponsorships with prominent Polish football clubs, and the consequences of interfering with these arrangements have been pointed out to the politicians by senior football authorities.

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