It is well-known that the legality of online gambling in Germany is fragile and changes frequently, making it hard for players to know exactly where they stand. This article will examine how the evolution of gambling legislation in Germany over the past few years has impacted Germans’ access to gambling venues within the country as well as their ability to wager on sporting events.
Casino Games and Their Regulatory Status
The fact that each of Germany’s 16 federal states can set its own attitude on gambling is one of the country’s more intriguing legal provisions. Naturally, the position on gaming laws can shift as governments in these states come and go.
Depending on the type of wager placed, the regulations governing internet gambling regulation in Germany may change. Here, we’ll examine the legitimacy of various gambling options one by one.
In Germany, gambling of any kind was banned until relatively recently. This included online gambling.
Although it is against the law for a company based in Germany to provide gambling services to German citizens, there are no laws prohibiting German citizens from using the internet to gamble at offshore gambling sites. In fact, no German has ever faced legal consequences due to wagering money on casino games found online.
The most recent gambling-related law in Germany is the Interstate Treaty on Gambling 2021, which, unlike its predecessors, covers online gambling. Despite the fact that the new rules make it possible for internet casinos to advertise their services to Germans, no licenses have been awarded as of yet.
Only sites licensed by Schleswig-Holstein, the lone German state to opt out of the 2012 Interstate Treaty on Gambling (which was never ratified), are allowed to legally offer online casino games to German residents at this time. Until the newest Treaty enters into force, these licensees have been granted regulatory authority.
Despite all of this, the most recent Interstate Treaty only covers online casino slots and not live dealer or RNG-driven table games like Roulette and Blackjack.
Like slot machines at German online casinos, poker games are subject to the regulations stated in the most recent Interstate Treaty 2021, which means that players can only play at legitimate, licensed poker sites.
Due to the newness of the law, there are now just a select few websites where German gamers can access online poker games. Sites that already had a license issued by Schleswig-Holstein during the state’s year of self-determined licensing outside of the 2012 Interstate Treaty have been given an extension of that license until the new law goes into effect.
Bingo, like lotteries, is legal in Germany under a somewhat different provision of the country’s gaming law. That means locals can participate in bingo games, provided they do so through a vendor who has been approved by the state.
The implication of this is that playing bingo games online is legal. It is unclear, however, how the most recent Interstate Treaty will be implemented with respect to the online casinos and independent online bingo sites that typically host the games in question.
The purchasing of lottery tickets is legal in Germany on the grounds that lotteries are games of chance that fall under the jurisdiction of the Interstate Treaty 2021. There are various local, state, and national lotteries in Germany.
Only authorized sellers may legally sell lottery tickets to customers, while online sales are permitted.
Skill-based or free-to-play social games in Germany are exempt from the Interstate Treaty 2021 because they are not considered to be gambling.
German regulations on sports betting
Unlike other types of gambling, sports betting is widely available in Germany, with numerous sportsbooks offering pre-match and in-play betting opportunities.
In general, Germany allows an unlimited number of licenses for sports betting operators; however, due to its unique regulatory framework, parimutuel wagering on horse races is restricted to a small number of licensed operators. This is due to the fact that only certain racetracks in the country are authorized to host horse races.
Online sports betting is also legal in Germany, with licensees able to provide a wide variety of sports betting markets to locals.
Maximum Gambling Age Set at 21
Gambling in its many forms is illegal in Germany unless the player is at least 18 years old.
Germany’s gambling industry is governed by the Race Betting and Lotteries Act, the most recent version of which (2021) imposes a 5.3% tax on all slot machine, poker, and sports betting wagers made at licensed or unauthorized sites. While many sites have chosen to pass these expenses on to players, others have chosen to take a hit to maintain their user base.
Gambling Legislation in Germany: A Brief History
Gambling in Germany has a long history, dating back to Roman times when soldiers introduced the practice across Europe.
The Casino Wiesbaden was established in 1810 and the Kurhaus in 1824, making them two of the oldest casinos in the world. The history of casino gambling is fraught with ups and downs; the first casinos closed in 1872, then reopened in 1933, then closed again during World War 2 and finally reopened in 1950.
After the war, the states of West Germany took control of the gambling industry and restricted entry to residents exclusively.
By the turn of the millennium, Germany had recognized the significance of gambling and was attempting to monopolize the sector, prompting a rewrite of the relevant regulations in 1995. Open competition was opposed by the European Union, which blocked the first Interstate Treaty on Gambling in 2012.
Prior to re-joining the Treaty in 2013, Schleswig-Holstein licensed over two dozen online casinos and sports betting sites after initially rejecting it in 2012.
In 2019, Germany began revising the Interstate Treaty, and in the meantime, Schleswig-Holstein issued transitional licenses to current licensees so that they may continue functioning legally.
In 2021, lawmakers ratified an updated Interstate Gambling Treaty, clearing the way for the country to begin issuing gambling licenses to online casinos, poker rooms, and sportsbooks.
Gambling has been strictly outlawed in Germany for quite some time, leaving only the prospect of online gambling as a legal gray area.
The Interstate Treaty on Gambling 2021, however, has opened the door for Germans to legally access a number of online casinos, poker rooms, and sportsbooks.
A lack of coverage under the Treaty means that licensed operators cannot now offer live dealer or RNG-based table games like Blackjack, Roulette, and Baccarat to players in Germany.