Mybet has achieved the ignominious distinction of being warned by its regulator less than 24 hours after it received one of the first online casino and poker licences issued within Germany.
The German federal state or Land of Schleswig-Holstein revealed it had sent a letter to Kiel-based mybet reminding it of its obligations under its new licence after company CEO Mathias Dahms told Kieler Nachrichten that: “We believe that we can use the license immediately for all of Germany.”
The Land said in a statement that it had provided clarification that mybet could only provide casino and poker games to players “who are resident or ordinarily resident in Schleswig-Holstein”, adding that violations of the Gambling Law would not be tolerated and, “in extreme cases”, could lead to licences being withdrawn.
Germany’s northernmost Land issued 12 online casino licences to operators including 888, bwin, bet365, Betfair and PokerStars last week, bringing it into conflict with the rest of Germany, where the other 15 states have signed up to a sports betting-only Treaty which strictly prohibits the offer of online casino and poker games.
Schleswig-Holstein’s current government has initiated the process to repeal the Gambling Act passed by its predecessor, which provides for the issue of unlimited licences for online betting and casino (including poker), and to join the other 15 states in the restrictive sports betting-only Interstate Treaty on Gambling (ITG).
However, the Land was forced to postpone the second reading of its repeal bills after the EC failed to approve the proposals within the statutory three-month period set aside for review of changes to Member States’ gambling laws.
Mybet and bwin sued SH in August in an attempt to secure egaming permits after the Land admitted it was powerless to halt the licensing process at risk of becoming liable for costly claims for damages from existing licence holders. SH issued 15 licences for online sports betting prior to last week’s approvals.
The EC’s detailed opinion expressed concerns over the compliance and consistency of SH’s new legislation with EU law, given it changes the open and transparent licensing model to which it gave its approval last year to a restrictive and opaque regime within the space of 12 months. The EC also raised concerns over the lack of coherency in German gambling law, given the existence of two regulatory frameworks.
Germany’s Federal Court of Justice is also investigating whether the existence of two parallel licensing regimes in Germany breaches EU law, after the EC disagreed with its 2011 decision that its restrictions on the freedom to provide gambling services in the form of a ban on online poker and casino could be justified in terms of providing better protection for players from crime fraud and addiction.
Leading gaming lawyers DLA Piper said in a note that the Ministry’s clarification issued to mybet: “[U]nderscores the incoherent system of Gambling law in Germany. Hence, it remains to be seen how the German Federal High Court of Justice and the EU Commission will cope with this issue in the future. Major changes in German gambling law may lie ahead.”