Among the recent flurry of swift legislative actions of the new Polish government, the Gambling Games Act has become a target of much needed amendments. The question remains however: are these changes for the better or for the worse?
So far, the current wording of the Gambling Games Act introduced haphazardly in a matter of weeks in 2009, has left lawyers, publishers and developers alike in dismay. This is for reasons of prevalent vagueness and breadth of regulation in the act, encroaching on various gaming and transactional schemes in mobile, on-line and AAA titles.
Pros and cons of the new bill
The new bill is still being considered by the government, often with intense talks between the cabinet members. The Minister of Finance anticipates introduction of the new law in early 2017. The newest text, although a slight advancement from the bill’s first iteration, sheds light on the some features of the law:
🙂 deletion of a general prohibition on operation and participation in gambling games via the Internet;
🙂 the amended act will be subject to European Commission notification procedure as per Directive 2015/1535/EU;
😐 poker would no longer be considered by law as a game of chance, instead would be regulated as a specific card game; poker would be allowed to be played outside of casinos, however only during tournaments, with prohibitive requirements imposed on the organizers, which de facto will curb any material change in this respect (e.g. requirement of installing CCTV systems);
🙁 Polish telecom operators would be obliged to block user access to sites non-compliant with the Gambling Games Act, with a list of non-compliant sites administered by the Ministry of Finance (this was staunchly opposed by the Ministry of Digitization during a recent cabinet meeting, but the Ministry of Finance maintained an upper hand on this issue);
🙁 operating gambling games on the Internet is to be considered monopoly of the State;
🙁 no new precise definition of a gambling game – practically, still only two conditions are needed to be met for a game to be considered a gambling game: an element of chance/randomness and the result being monetary or in-kind prizes (the latter may include virtual currency, items, etc.).
Newest trends in gaming – microtransactions, loot crates
These regulatory developments coincide with a recent trend esp. in MMOs of delivering minor, varying content in loot crates which are accessible through virtual currency within the game’s mechanics.
Loot crate schemes usually are founded on a chance/random premise. Depending on the game, loot crates may contain VC, items, emotes, skins, levelups, upgrades, some have legendary, rare items. All of these may be considered in-kind prizes. The question remains of whether (paid/non-paid) participation in such a loot crate scheme would trigger application of gambling regulations.
Of course, these sort of doubts appear in various jurisdictions, having often vastly different approaches to gambling. This in turn, signals the need of gathering knowledge on every distribution market to make a sound business decision on how to proceed.
One of the few certain things is that overkill sanctions for non-compliance, such as site blocking, will only add frustration to the equation.