Slovakia, Poland, and Czech Republic Engage Local ISPs to Block Unlicensed Gambling Operators

ISP blocking has been a tool commonly deployed as part of the regulation process of one European iGaming market or another. Generally speaking, governments have been opting for that approach to prevent unlicensed online gambling operators from servicing players from their respective jurisdictions. However, the effectiveness of the tool has been rather doubtful.

Despite efforts invested by officials to regulate the markets and by local Internet service providers to follow regulations and block access to unauthorized websites, it is relatively easy to circumvent the prohibition and eventually reach one blocked iGaming website or another.

Slovakia, Poland, and the Czech Republic regulated their markets relatively recently. And all three decided that engaging local ISPs into blocking unlicensed operators would help in the general improvement of their regulated iGaming environments.

It can be said that Poland’s Finance Ministry has been the most active in detecting violators of the local regulations and placing them in what has turned into an ever-growing blacklist. As seen on the Ministry’s official website, almost 900 online gambling domains have been added to the list so far.

Poland officially regulated its iGaming market on April 1, 2017, when the country’s new gambling laws took effect. Under the new regulatory framework, local ISPs had to commence blocking unlicensed operations as from July 1, 2017.

The Czech Republic, which enacted its new online gambling regulations on January 1, 2017, also intended to deploy the ISP blocking approach. Shortly after the new laws came into effect, the country was scolded heavily by the Transparency International organization for failing to block access to 25 unlicensed operators. Officials promised that proper actions would be taken and that the market would be regulated and monitored in a manner that would protect customers.

Slovakia has also regulated its iGaming market relatively recently and has decided that the newly created environment would be best protected by purging it from violators with the help of local ISPs. The country’s Ministry of Finance released a list of 10 unlicensed operators, access to which would be blocked. The list contained big industry names such as William Hill, 888, and GVC. Local news website Zive.sk has reported earlier this week that the list had swollen up to 16 operators by the end of July.

ISPs are now waiting for a judicial order to proceed with the planned blocking. Violators who are found to have circumvented the prohibition could face fines of up to €500,000.

Although it might be a bit too early to assess the newly regulated markets of Poland, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia too accurately, we can say from what we have witnessed so far, that all three jurisdictions have failed to attract great attention among international operators. Unnecessary bureaucracy and unnecessarily high taxes have affected the three markets’ lure for foreign investment, factors that will eventually affect their growth.

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