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The land-based gambling scene in the Czech Republic is wide open, with 43 casinos in 23 cities spread across the country, 32 of which have a poker room, in addition to widespread public access to slot machines and other gambling devices. (1) If you’re looking to gamble in the Czech Republic, it’s very easy to do so right now.
Overall, the amount of land based gambling regulation in this country is pretty minimal, and it’s pretty much a free market operation. This is set to change soon though, and new regulations are set to come into force in January 2016.
This new bill will limit access to gambling devices and disallow gambling machines from locations such as bars, restaurants, and gas stations, where they exist in abundance now. Czech Republic residents love to gamble, and gambling is everywhere right now, and there are a lot of problem gamblers here, which the government seeks to address. (2)
There is said to be about 100,000 people addicted to gambling here, which is a pretty large amount for a country this size. With spending on gambling coming in at about $6 billion per year, that works out to about $600 for every man, woman, and child in the country, which is a lot to be sure. (3)
So the plan is to cut down on that and in particular to address the large segment of the population that are seen as gambling excessively.
So in addition to looking to curtail access to gambling, it also looks to track people’s losses through maintaining a player database and place strict limits on how much people can lose at gambling over a given period of time. Those found to be exceeding these limits will be cut off essentially.
The new bill hasn’t been passed yet but indications are that it will be in effect in 2016, and at the very least it will place a damper on gambling in this country.
This doesn’t really affect poker though, it is more aimed at casino and sports betting, which are the forms that have gotten out of hand here, especially the playing of slot machines.
In addition, this new law is seeking to double the tax rate on gambling, which is already seen as pretty high as it is. It is currently set at 20 percent of gross revenues plus a 19 percent corporate tax, and proposed levels are looking to take the gross tax rate as high as 40 percent depending on the game, with casino games particularly targeted with this. (4)
Online Gambling In The Czech Republic
The government has already taken measures to regulate online gambling, although not in a way that has been particularly successful. They do have a regulatory scheme in place where they issue licenses for online gambling operations, although this has thus far been limited to those companies who have a physical presence in the country, to the dismay of the EU who wishes to see companies registered in the EU to have free access.
This is set to change with the new law, as Czech Republic officials are looking to comply more with EU trade regulations by relaxing this requirement. So the plan here is to open the market to international operators, but whether or not international operators will be interested in this may be another matter.
With already high tax rates compared to some other EU jurisdictions, and the taxation rates set to go higher, and some pretty tight regulations, it’s an open question whether anyone outside the country would be interested in such a scheme, especially when they already have free access to Czech players.
While a lot of countries take an aggressive stance towards online gambling operators outside their jurisdiction, looking to ban residents from playing there, looking to block access to these sites, or at least looking to discourage people from playing on them, this is not really the case at all in this country.
The Czech government in fact has said that they see nothing criminal in offshore companies offering online gambling to their residents, and have taken a hands off approach pretty much, other than looking to prohibit these unlicensed sites from advertising in Czech media. (5)
In fact, they even pretty much leave domestic unlicensed operators alone, apart from this restriction on advertising. So this has left licensed operators pretty angry, as their license places them in a situation where they have a big competitive disadvantage, where they are paying the price here for protection but not really getting much.
So like the land gambling scene here, the online scene is currently pretty much a free for all as well, although with the online scene, there aren’t many plans to change it, given that most of the action takes place outside the realm of control of the government.
The Czech government is actually taking a more realistic approach to this though than most other countries do, where they pretend that their regulations will cordon off the market and players will just stop playing at unlicensed sites. In reality, a lot do, but a lot don’t as well, and the breakdown is about half and half on average, with about half the players opting out.
Depending on how well crafted the regulatory scheme is though, it can be more or less successful than this, but the scheme right now in the Czech Republic is not well designed at all and they are talking about jacking up the taxes even more, so this does not seem designed to succeed much at all.
If you are an online poker player in the Czech Republic, things are just fine the way they are, the government isn’t hassling you at all about playing wherever you want, and you can play wherever you want, which is going to mean you are going to want to play at one of the large and well regarded offshore sites, since that’s where the best poker is right now.
So there’s no change needed right now and things are perfectly fine just the way they are, and if the government ever gets their act together and offers competitive licensed online poker, then that’s great, but this is unlikely to happen anytime soon.