888, PokerStars, bwin, bet365, Betfair and Ladbrokes were among the recipients of Germany’s first ever licences for online poker and casino, issued this afternoon by the northernmost federal state of Schleswig-Holstein.
The issue of 12 licences follows the failure of the Land to receive European Commission approval for repealing its Gambling Act which provides for the issue of unlimited licences for online betting and casino (including poker) and joining the restrictive sports betting-only Treaty backed by the other 15 German federal states.
The six-year permits are valid until 18 December 2018, with the full list of licensees as follows: 888Poker; bet-at-home; bet365; Betfair; bwin; Cashpoint Malta; Ladbrokes; Mybet; Online Casino Germany; PokerStars; Tipico and Skill On Net.
A further 18 applications for licences to offer online casino, including poker, are being considered, Schleswig Holstein added today. 15 companies have already been issued with online sports betting licences.
Interior Minister Andreas Breitner (pictured) said while he thought “this exceptionalism is politically wrong”, the Schleswig-Holstein government was required to fulfil its legal obligation to operators under the Gambling Act passed by its predecessor. He reiterated SH’s intention to accede to the Interstate Treaty on Gaming (ITG).
bwin.party and Mybet had initiated legal action in August aimed at forcing SH in fulfilling its legal obligation to issue them with egaming permits. Unlike for online sports betting, where a clause in its Gambling Act prevents it from collecting duty on betting that is subject to taxation under the [federal] Betting and Lotteries Act, SH will be able to collect 20% of gross profits generated by licensees from offering online casino and poker games to state residents.
Germany’s Federal Court of Justice is currently investigating whether the existence of two parallel licensing regimes in Germany – the G15′s plan to issue up to 20 licences just for sports betting and the Schleswig-Holstein multi-product regime – breaches EU laws.
The EC this year disagreed with the German court’s 2011 decision that restrictions on the freedom to provide gambling services by banning the offer of online poker and casino could be justified in terms of providing better protection for players from crime fraud and addiction.
As well as giving German authorities two years to prove the compliance of their regime with EU law, the EC also expressed doubts whether taxing sports bets at a prohibitive 5% of turnover would be economically viable, and also over the lack of data provided by the 15 Lander to back up their claim that the egaming ban was justified because these games were more vulnerable to rigging, money laundering and increased addiction risks.
Today’s approvals will make it even more difficult for German authorities to enforce the ban within the ITG on operators offering online casino and poker games to citizens of the EU Member State.
Article written by Stephen Carter