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The Warsaw Voice » Destination Warsaw » March 3, 2014
Destination Warsaw
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Fancy a Flutter?
March 3, 2014   
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Nikolaus Strohriegel, chairman of the management board of Casinos Poland, talks to Jolanta Wolska.

Casinos Poland has been operating in Poland for 25 years. How has the casino market changed in that time?
After 1989, when casino gambling was legalized in Poland and the industry was new, the gambling market developed in an uncontrolled and undesirable direction. A huge street market developed with gaming machines in small places. There was no protection for the man in the street. The big change came in 2009 with new gaming laws, which completely changed the character, transparency and image of the market.

The number of arcades that offered slot machines but no table games fell from almost 300 in 2009 to around 100 currently—and over the next two years they will vanish altogether in Poland. Also, there were 55,000 street market machines in operation in 2009 all over Poland, and now there are only about 10,000. Due to legal restrictions these machines will also vanish within the next two years.

With such government restrictions do you expect some activity to go underground?
That can happen anywhere in the world. But it is not very smart to play in underground venues, as there is no guarantee that the games are fair and that the machines are properly calibrated.

How many casinos does Casinos Poland operate in this country?
Currently, we have nine casinos out of 49 in total in Poland. They are situated in all the major cities. Our company employs 750 staff in Poland and we mainly train them in-house.

How much revenue does gambling in Poland bring in?
I estimate that annual income from all of casinos operating in Poland is about 100 million euros. That does not include slot arcade and street market revenues, and that is much higher than from casinos.

Which are the most popular games in casinos? Are Polish people big gamblers?
American Roulette is by far the most popular in Poland and in Europe. However, I personally prefer Black Jack. There doesn’t seem to have been much change in preferences in recent times except for an increasing trend for slot machine games. Generally, Polish people play more than Germans but less than the French and the Swiss or Asians.

Does Casinos Poland promote responsible gambling?
We believe that we are the only company among all Polish casino operators who promote responsible gambling. We have special programs, brochures and specially trained staff in all our casinos ready to assist people with problematic behavior. While legally we are not required to do this, it is important to our company. We also cooperate with therapy centers that work with problem gamblers.

You came to Poland from Austria some seven years ago and you are learning Polish. How are you managing with that? What are your favorite places in Warsaw and favorite Polish food?
I am making slow progress as Polish is an interesting but very difficult language. When asked, I tell people that I know only troszeczkę—that is only a little bit. I don’t have much leisure time, but I like going along Nowy ¦wiat and the area around the Marriott Hotel. The Palace of Culture and Science is impressive. In terms of Polish food it is similar to that in Austria, but I do like pierogi with meat very much.
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