Majority of German states agree to regulate online gaming in 2021

The government of Schleswig-Holstein has said that a majority of German states now accept the need to regulate online casino gaming, with new national rules expected to come into force in 2021. In the meantime, existing state licenses will be reactivated.

Schleswig-Holstein is currently the only German state to license and regulate online casino games, having diverged from Germany’s other 15 states in 2011. All other states only allow online sports betting.

“We are no longer alone,” said Hans-Jörn Arp, leader of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party in the Schleswig-Holstein parliament. “In 2011, the state coalition government of the time adopted gambling legislation [to regulate online gaming] and thus opposed the course of the other 15 states.

“In the meantime, however, the majority of states have realised that the state should not abandon the regulation of a gigantic market.”

His comments preceded a vote in the Schleswig-Holstein parliament to reactivate the online gaming licenses that expired in 2018.

The state parliament voted Thursday in favour of extending the existing online gaming licenses until 30 June 2021, at the latest, by which time a new state treaty on gambling should be ready to regulate both online sports betting and casino gaming nationally.

The Social Democratic Party (SPD) was the only one to vote against the proposal, citing the continuation of some online gaming operations after licenses expired in 2018. SPD member and parliamentary spokesman Kai Dolgner accused supporters of the proposal of rewarding the illegal activity of those who deliberately broke the rules after their licenses expired.

Greens MP Burkhard Peters, an opponent of expanding gambling, recognised the SPD’s concern but noted that terminating the licenses will not benefit anyone.

“The dilemma is obvious,” he said. “Despite the clear ban in article 4 paragraph 4 of the State Treaty on Gambling, everyone in Germany can easily gamble at online casinos at any time. No matter where you live, no matter if you are of legal age. Although these offers are illegal, the gambling authorities of the federal states have no control over the companies operating in Malta or Monaco.

“The situation differs in Schleswig Holstein,” Peters added. “The licenses issued by our Gambling Authority in 2012 are subject to conditions: compliance with our rules on player protection, youth gambling and consumer protection, with all games passing via our SafeServer to ensure oversight and prevent redirects from other states.

“In light of this, phasing out the licenses is of no use to anyone. It does not benefit teenagers and consumers. Least of all it benefits the players who are addicted or at risk of addiction.”

While voting in favour of extending the licenses, Peters also acknowledged shortfalls in the existing state regulations, particularly TV advertising of gambling, and pledged to work with all parties in all states to strengthen regulations.

Schleswig-Holstein interior minister Hans-Joachim Grote concurred. “I can understand that some people are uncomfortable talking about legalising online gambling, but without it, we lose the opportunity to influence it, and only by agreeing to certain conditions can we monitor whether the substantive legal requirements for gambling are respected,” he said. “This is the only way we can combat illicit operators and we will continue to work hard to achieve this goal.”

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