Germany is an affluent European country with well-developed machine building, automotive, and electronic industries, but when it comes to the gambling industry, it is making small steps on the road to big transformation. Regulatory changes are relatively frequent, yet not so effective in resolving the most imminent industry problems.
German players have more than 60 land-based casinos and thousands of slot halls available across the country. According to the Criminal Code, owners of unlicensed land-based gambling establishments are prosecuted.
As far as online gambling is concerned, the situation is a bit more complicated. The Government is yet to pass clear regulations that fit the fast-developing digital age. Currently, the Code says nothing about the operators offering online gambling services. So, is online gambling legal in Germany?
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Online gambling in Germany is illegal, with the state of Schleswig-Holstein being the only exception. This is the only state that issued online gambling licenses, but more on that later. Sports betting fans have a couple of sites where they can legally place a wager.
However, the unclear legal terms do not seem to be an obstacle as there is a vast number of foreign gambling operators that accept German players. What’s more, some of these operators have a German version of the site, as well as German-speaking customer support.
Check out our infographic about the German gambling market:
Online Gambling Regulation in Germany
History of gambling dates back to the Roman Empire. Since then, is has gained many opponents and twice as many proponents. Gambling in Germany was allowed and prohibited on several occasions up until now when online gambling is a grey area. Here’s a brief overview of the gambling legislation changes that happened over the past decade or so:
2008 – the Interstate Gambling Treaty was approved and all online casinos and all kinds of gambling activities were deemed illegal; Internet companies blocked the access to gambling websites
2010 – the EU criticizes the German gambling industry for being monopolistic
2012 – The Schleswig-Holstein state becomes the first and only German state to legalise online gambling and issue licenses to leading operators
2013 – The Schleswig-Holstein state signed the Interstate Gambling Treaty thus joining the states that banned online gambling. However, the previously issued licenses remained valid for 6 years (2012-2018)
2017 – German lawmakers passed a law that enables more operators to accept German players, but the EU Commission did not consider the overhaul “a viable solution”
2019 – The 20 licenses the Schleswig-Holstein issued in 2012 expired. During the negotiations on the Third State Treaty amendment, Schleswig-Holstein threatened to leave the Treaty unless a consensus on online gambling is achieved. Consequently, the Schleswig-Holstein licensees were granted a license extension. They are allowed to serve Schleswig-Holstein residents until June 2021. Online gambling legislation in the other German states is not on the agenda, though.
Third State Treaty Amendment
The Treaty seemed to favour sports betting and it authorised the licensing of online and offline bookmakers. The licenses expire on June 30, 2021, with the possibility of an extension until June 2014 and removal of the quota for 20 licenses only.
The current piece of legislation makes it difficult for players to figure out what is legal and what is not. In a nutshell, land-based gambling is perfectly legal. Online gambling is legal only in the state of Schleswig-Holstein but many foreign casinos accept German players.
These software providers operate under different licenses. Therefore, some of the games you see in the casino’s lobby before signing up, might not be playable from Germany. That being said, German players still have a large number of online slots, table games, lotto, and scratchcard games available.
Online gambling is illegal in most German states, and if you deposit funds at an international casino site, and you fall a victim to dishonest practices, you cannot expect the local authorities to protect your interests. A foolproof method for protecting yourself against frauds and misuses is checking casino’s legitimacy a.k.a license. The latter should be visible at the bottom of the main page. The lack of a logo of a licensing jurisdiction is an alarming sign, and you should be cautious when making big deposits. We recommend you to play at MGA or UKGC-regulated casinos, and stay away from offshore licensees.
German players have recently faced the threat of having their gambling transactions blocked, so the first thing you have to do is to check if the bank you have an account with processes deposits and withdrawals to/from online gambling sites.
Apart from Visa and Mastercard, Skrill, Neteller, and Sofort are the alternative payment methods German players can freely use. Trustly is yet another payment method popular across no account and fully-fledged online casinos.
Despite the pressure it gets from the EU, German lawmakers are not embracing change with open arms. According to the latest surveys, as many as 70% of Germans believe it is time for a major industry overhaul, creation of a regulatory body, enactment of customer protection laws, and taxes for online operators that serve German players.
Up until now, all suggestions of this kind have been brought to a standstill, which explains why online gambling remained a grey area.