Poland Sports Minister Resigns Over Gambling Accusations

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BERLIN - Poland's sports minister resigned Monday as a result of a growing scandal over a gambling law, amid accusations that he tried to influence amendments to the new law on behalf of the gambling industry.

The minister, Miroslaw Drzewiecki, tendered his resignation after his name surfaced in connection with an anticorruption investigation with the code name "Operation Blackjack." Transcripts of the recorded conversations between another lawmaker and the owners of gambling companies appeared last week in the Polish newspaper Rzeczpospolita.

"I believe that when the media uproar subsides, when all the facts related to changes in the gambling law will be clarified, it will turn out that I was wrongly accused. I'm sure of this," Mr. Drzewiecki said in a statement on his Web site on Monday. He added that he resigned in part because he did not want the scandal to be used against Prime Minister Donald Tusk and his Civic Platform government.

Mr. Tusk accepted Mr. Drzewiecki's resignation, a spokesman for the prime minister said Monday. But a local poll showed that the controversy already had cut into support for Civic Platform.

Mr. Tusk came to power with high expectations among voters in 2007, but his efforts to reform the health-care and education systems, and to move forward with planned privatizations, have been hampered by a combination of the economic crisis and vetoes by President Lech Kaczynski, whose twin brother, Jaroslaw, was unseated as prime minister by Mr. Tusk. Mr. Tusk plans to run against Lech Kaczynski in next year's presidential election.

The new law was intended to raise taxes on the gambling industry in order to help cover the costs for the European soccer championships, which Poland is co-hosting with Ukraine in 2012. The soccer tournament has been a point of pride for Poland, but preparations were hampered by delays that led European soccer officials to consider relocating the event.

Members of Civic Platform have said the investigation is politically motivated. The head of the anticorruption bureau was appointed by Mr. Tusk's predecessor.

"What we observe on our political stage is not a competition but a war," said Andrzej Jonas, the editor in chief of the English-language newspaper Warsaw Voice. "It seems to me that Tusk is going to be weaker in the next months and it would take him a lot of time and maneuvers to get back to the position he was in, let's say, two weeks ago."

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