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Will German gambling law ever change?

Understanding how German gambling law might change

With the EC clashing with countries like Finland over its restrictive gambling laws, largely seen to be protecting a state monopoly on gambling, many are wondering if German gambling law will begin to change in order to lead the way on EU compliance.

Before understanding how German gambling law might change, it helps to understand where things stand currently.

German Gambling Law in 2018

As of the time of press, The German online casino gaming industry is governed by the Interstate Treaty on Gambling (2012), which governs online gaming and sports betting at a federal level.

While this is a federal law and all of Germany’s 16 states have signed up to it, there is still a degree of autonomy for German states, which have ultimate control over their own gambling laws.

The Interstate Treaty on Gambling decrees:

  • A state monopoly on lottery operations.
  • A limit on the number of sports betting licences available.
  • A total ban on online casino gaming.

There are some other relevant laws such as the Casino Acts and the Gaming Ordinance. These are implemented at a state level and deal with slot machines and arcade gaming, among other things.

Officially, it is a criminal offense to organise, promote, or participate in an unauthorized game of chance under German law. This also applies to advertising such games. Nonetheless, the law is not as clear when it comes to international operators of online casinos. As such, German players, through services such as Neueonline-casinos.com, for example, have the option to choose between different gambling sites.

A Clash with the EC - Could This Force Change?

What is clear is that the EC is against any form of state monopoly, as has become clear in its disputes with Germany, Finland, and some other EU countries in recent years.

However, there has been no significant movement with regards countries taking concrete steps to change these restrictive laws.

Could Germany be the first to do so? It’s true that Germany is looked to by many other EU countries as the defacto leader of the bloc and moves in this direction could force other countries to change their tune on the issue of online gambling and state monopolies, opening up and embracing the principles of the EU Single Market for services.

Unless Germany is seen to be practicing what the EC preaches, it’s highly unlikely that other countries will open up and embrace the Single Market when it comes to online gambling.

The European Commission has aimed pointed criticism at Germany’s total ban on online casino gaming, calling it “ineffective in achieving its goals” and has in the past hinted at formal infringement proceedings, in December 2017 it dropped the idea.

This sent a loud and clear message to all EU member states - promotion of the principles of the Single Market is not a priority when it comes to online gambling. Therefore, Germany has no incentive to change its gambling laws anytime soon.

Some Minor Changes In 2018 - A Hint of Change?

Given the fact that the CJEU ruled that the Treaty violated EU laws, Germany did make some moves to try and appease the court.

In January 2018, it doubled the number of online sports betting licences to 40, but this has done little to smooth things over.

The state of Schleswig-Holstein has even stated that it will no longer enforce the Interstate Treaty on Gambling and will revert to the previous Schleswig-Holstein Gambling Act, which does permit online casino gaming and poker to players in that state. It is widely reported in German media that other states may follow.

What can be surmised from this is that German gambling law is in a state of flux, with the EU condemning the main federal gambling act as a violation of EU laws, and states beginning to break away from the main federal legislation.

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