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Minister quits over casino claims

Miroslaw Drzewiecki, file pic
Drzewiecki: 'I cannot allow this to affect Euro 2012 preparations'

Poland's sports minister has resigned amid allegations he was involved in lobbying for the gambling industry.

Miroslaw Drzewiecki announced his decision after Rzeczpospolita newspaper published transcripts of tapped telephone conversations.

In the calls between a politician and a gambling industry boss, Mr Drzewiecki was allegedly named as someone who could help block planned casino taxes.

Mr Drzewiecki denies wrongdoing, saying he has been falsely accused.

The allegations may taint the reputation of PM Donald Tusk's centrist government.

The politician in the tapped phone calls has been named as Zbigniew Chlebowski, the head of Mr Tusk's Civic Platform (PO) parliamentary group.

He has been suspended pending an inquiry into what Polish media have dubbed "Black Jack-Gate".

The bill, which is expected to be debated in parliament soon, proposes higher taxes on the gambling business to channel more money into overstretched state coffers.

Both Mr Chlebowski and Mr Drzewiecki deny wrongdoing.

Drop in support

The sports minister said was resigning to prevent the situation from affecting important projects, such as plans to build football stadiums for children, or football's Euro 2012 championship, which Poland is set to co-host with Ukraine.

Donald Tusk
Tusk took power two years ago with a pledge to clean up government

"I believe that when the media frenzy dies down and all the circumstances relating to the gambling bill have been clarified, it will turn out that I have been falsely accused," he wrote.

"(But) I cannot allow this situation to affect the Euro 2012 preparations or my beloved Orliki project," he said, referring to the stadium-building plans.

The accusations have dented support for the government, polls suggest, with a 6% drop in support for the PO since the scandal emerged last week.

Mr Tusk took power two years ago with a pledge to clean up government.



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