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Gambling Laws in Germany

Gambling laws in Germany

The gambling laws in Germany have been complicated and confusing for the past decade or so. But the country is in the process of implementing new legislation they hope will fix that.

The new legislation is called the German Interstate Treaty on Gambling. Germany passed this in March 2020, and it should take effect in July 2021.

This new law should address questions about online gambling, criminal allegations, and payment processing. These issues have been ambiguous since the first Insterstate Treaty on Gambling was passed in 2012.

With all of these changes getting implemented, German gamblers must stay informed. That’s why we created this page – to explain everything you need to know about German gambling laws.

We will cover the upcoming changes to the online casino gambling laws in Germany and explore land-based gambling options. You can also read about the history of gambling in Germany.

But first, we’re going to talk about the Interstate Treaty on Gambling 2012.

German Online Gambling Laws

Is online gambling legal in Germany? Yes, but there complications.

The new Interstate Treaty on Gambling will clarify things, but here’s what you need to know about the current online gambling laws in Germany.

The Interstate Treaty on Gambling 2012

In 2012, Germany passed the first Interstate Treaty on Gambling. The intent was to offer regulated online sports betting across the country.

However, the European Supreme Court rejected the treaty because it violated the EU’s fair competition rules. So, the first Interstate Treaty never went into effect, and online operators never received licenses.

Since then, the legality of online gambling in Germany has been unclear. It was not regulated because the law that was supposed to regulate it never got implemented.

But there were also no laws that made real money gambling online in Germany illegal. The result was an unregulated online gambling industry that created a lot of questions for both operators and German gamblers.

Why Was Schleswig-Holstein Different?

Schleswig-Holstein online gambling laws

One state, Schleswig-Holstein, chose not to ratify the first Interstate Treaty on Gambling. It became the only state to offer regulated online gambling in Germany.

Schleswig-Holstein licensed 23 online casinos and 25 online sportsbooks.

Just one year later, the state repealed its German online gambling law and decided to join the treaty. All the licenses that Schleswig-Holstein had initially approved were valid until 2018.

Because the state had already licensed dozens of online gambling sites, they decided to extend those licenses until the new Interstate Treaty was finalized.

The transitionary licenses in Schleswig-Holstein could expire on June 30th, 2021. This is right before the new German gambling legislation, the Interstate Treaty on Gambling 2021, will take effect.

However, Schleswig-Holstein included an extension clause. If Germany’s online gambling legislation gets delayed, the state can extend its online casino licenses until December 2024.

The Germany online gambling laws are unclear for every gambler outside of Schleswig-Holstein. But if you are in that state, you can continue enjoying regulated gambling online in Germany.

The Interstate Treaty on Gambling 2021

Fortunately, the country recognized the need for more definitive online gambling laws in Germany. That’s why German federal states agreed to enact the new Interstate Treaty on Gambling in March 2020.

Here is an overview of some of the primary provisions of the Interstate Treaty on Gambling 2021. If you are interested in a more technical look at the law, we recommend this legal analysis.

  • Online casino operators may apply for a license to offer online slot machines, online poker games, or online sports betting in Germany.
  • These licenses would be valid for up to five years.
  • The Interstate Treaty would create a Central Supervisory Authority that would oversee online gambling licenses across multiple German states.
  • Casino table games, such as blackjack and roulette, are not included in the new Germany gambling legislation.
  • Live dealer casino games are also not covered under these German online gambling laws.
  • German gambling operators must offer a security deposit between 5 million and 50 million euros. The exact amount depends on their anticipated monthly turnover.
  • Single operators are allowed to apply for all three gambling licenses. However, they must have a separate space on their site for each gambling type.
  • Players will create one account that will be used to access all of the regulated online gambling providers in Germany.
  • Each player is required to set a monthly deposit limit for themselves. It cannot exceed €1,000 per month. These deposit limits apply to all gambling sites that are connected with that player’s account. You cannot gamble €1,000 at one site and another €1,000 at another site.
  • Players cannot access games from multiple sites or providers simultaneously.

This version of the Interstate Gambling Treaty is far more thorough than the previous online gambling legislation in Germany. It addresses many concerns, like the prevention of problem gambling.

But there are still a couple of issues that require further clarification. Unfortunately, that clarification typically comes in the form of lengthy legal proceedings.

Court Cases Concerning Germany Online Gambling Laws

Here are a few examples of court decisions that affect the gambling laws and regulations in Germany.

Legal Issues with Sports Betting Licenses in Germany

Online gambling providers were authorized to apply for sports betting licenses as of January 2020.

Within the first three months, 30 operators had applied for a sports betting license. Twenty more had expressed their intent to apply.

If those 50 operators were approved for their licenses, approximately 99% of the German sports betting market would be conducted through licensed operators.

The Darmstadt Administrative Court stopped the licensing process on April 1st, 2020 because Vierklee, an Austrian sports betting operator, filed a complaint.

Vierklee claimed that the licensing procedures were not transparent. That lack of transparency caused discrimination against sports betting operators outside of Germany.

The Regional Council of Darmstadt appealed the court case with the Higher Administrative Court of Kassel, one of Germany’s Supreme Courts.

In October 2020, the Kassel Administrative Court declared the case invalid. As such, sports betting licenses continue to be processed.

Since then, 28 sports betting operators have been approved for a sports betting license in Germany.

Criminal Liability

Germany’s Criminal Code prohibits the operation of gambling businesses without a license from the local authorities.

This law was difficult to enforce because the 2012 version of the Interstate Gambling Treaty contradicted the European Union’s gambling laws.

The German Federal Court of Justice published a ruling on the criminal liability provision in June 2020.

Their ruling determined that anyone operating a gambling business without a license violated Germany gambling law and is subject to criminal liability. It explicitly states that a gambling operator that has applied for a license cannot operate a gambling business, even if their license was unlawfully denied.

Germany has already begun criminal proceedings against three operators that have been operating without a license.

Technically, the criminal liability provision in German gambling laws applies to land-based casino operators.

As internet gambling spreads, the courts may have to decide how to modify this provision to apply to online gambling operators.

Payment Blocking for Real Money Online Gambling in Germany

Gambling payment blocking in Germany

In 2019, German law enforcement agencies sent letters to payment processors.

These letters were not legally binding, but they implied that the payment processors were prohibited from processing illegal online gambling transactions.

After these letters got sent out, Saxony issued a legal prohibition against a specific payment provider.

Many payment processors decided to stop processing transactions for online gambling in Germany to avoid potential legal consequences.

However, German courts ruled that payment processors cannot be held liable for online gambling transactions.

The payment processors have no way of proving where the transaction began

It is not fair for them to be held liable for something that they have no way of verifying. As a result, most payment processors are reversing their policy changes.

Law enforcement will need to find a new way to enforce the gaming laws in Germany. They cannot legally use payment processors as an easy way to control the online gambling market.

Legal Online Gambling in Germany

The Interstate Gambling Treaty is comprehensive online gambling legislation for Germany. We have already covered the provisions that refer to online slot machines, poker, and sports betting.

But there are a few other types of real money online gambling that are legal in Germany. Here is how German gambling regulation and laws apply to those.

Esports
Traditionally, esports have not been included in Germany’s sports betting definition. However, an amendment is being considered that would add esports to online betting laws in Germany.
Fantasy sports betting
Daily fantasy sports and other fantasy sports betting products are not included in Germany sports betting laws. Germany handles fantasy sports on a case-by-case basis with individual operators. There are no laws that govern fantasy sports across the country.
Lottery
Germany has several state and local lottery programs, including multi-state lotteries. They are allowed to sell lottery tickets online as long as state law approves.
Bingo
Germany gambling laws state that bingo is part of the lottery program. Bingo programs fall under the same state laws that oversee lottery products.

Fortunately, Germany online casino gambling laws are reasonable and progressive.

You can enjoy a large variety of gambling products online throughout the country.

Land-Based Gambling Laws in Germany

Online gambling legislation in Germany desperately needs the updates and clarification that the new Interstate Treaty on Gambling 2021 should provide.

We anticipate the German online gambling industry taking off like a rocket if everything goes according to plan.

But online gambling is not all the country has to offer. Germany also has a long-standing land-based gambling industry that offers gamblers a different way to experience their favorite casino games.

Casinos in Germany

Kurhaus Casino in Germany

Laws in Germany give individual states the right to govern casinos, so each state has different legislation.

14 of the 16 states in Germany have legal brick-and-mortar casinos. You can gamble everywhere except for Thuringia and Mecklenburg-Vorpommern.

There are 50 casinos available throughout the country, including at least one in each major city. Most of the casinos in Germany are in small resort towns.

Germany has dozens of tourist destinations that include natural hot water springs, known as baths. Casinos go hand-in-hand with tourism, so many of these spa towns offer multiple casinos.

The Kurhaus in Baden Baden is one example of a casino in a spa resort town. It is also one of the oldest casinos in Europe.

The casinos in Germany are often different than American casinos. They are not as flashy and over-the-top.

Instead, Germans prefer upscale and formal casinos. They do not have formal dress codes, but casino employees will ask you to leave if your attire is too casual.

German casinos also do not allow smoking, they often charge a small cover fee to enter, and they may ask to see your passport before you enter.

German Slot Machine Halls

If slot machines are your gambling preference, you may want to consider visiting a slot machine parlor instead of a German casino.

There are more than 9,000 slot machine halls across Germany, so you have plenty of options.

However, slot machine halls are subject to different legistlation. Each state has different laws, but the regulations for slot machine halls are typically stricter than those for casinos.

Slot machine halls typically have low betting limits. Depending on the state law, you cannot bet more than 15 euros at a time.

Lower betting limits also mean lower prize options. Slot machine halls cannot offer progressive jackpots.

You might enjoy the slot machine halls if you are interested in low-stakes gaming for a couple of hours. But traditional casinos have extended hours, higher prizes, and fewer regulations.

Sports and Race Betting in Germany

Germany betting laws allow for an unlimited number of sports betting operators. However, some states have additional laws that restrict the number of sportsbooks.

Licensed sportsbooks can offer wagers on a full range of sports, including in-game betting options. You can play your bet at one of dozens of sports betting shops around the country.

Sports betting licenses in Germany are different from horse race betting licenses. Pari-mutuel wagering on horse races is allowed.

However, there are additional restrictions for horse race betting licenses. Horse racing licenses are connected to specific racetracks, so there are a limited number of licenses available.

Lottery and Bingo

Lottery and bingo games are legal in Germany. You can buy tickets online or in-person at authorized retailers. Each state has its own lottery regulations.

The state Ministry of Interior or the Regional Council is responsible for licensing and managing lottery products.

Some states operate their own lottery programs, while other states authorize private companies to sell lottery tickets.

Companies can operate lotteries in multiple states in Germany. The Lower Saxony Ministry of Interior is the licensing authority that oversees multi-state lotteries.

Social and Charitable Gambling

Germany gambling laws and regulations allow for social or private gaming. As long as no one is making a profit from the operation, there are no special rules to follow.

The same goes for skills-based games that have no element of chance.

Charitable gambling is allowed in the form of small lotteries, but organizations need to get a license to operate a charitable lottery.

Those licenses are difficult to get. There are several stipulations the organization must agree to.

In many cases, the regulations limit the economic value of charitable lotteries. It is not worth the cost of getting the license because there are so many limits on the money raised.

Ultimately, Germany gaming laws are complex because they combine both state and federal regulations. It is tough to keep up with it all.

The bright side is that most forms of gambling are allowed, both online and in-person.

History of Gambling Laws in Germany

Gambling has been a popular activity in Germany since Ancient Roman soldiers occupied the country.

Kurhaus Baden-Baden opened in 1766 – it is the oldest casino in the country. However, modern German laws for gambling have only been in place since the end of World War II.

Here is a timeline of all the major changes made to the German gambling laws.

1949 The new German Constitution gave states in Western Germany the right to pass their own gambling laws.
1950-1990 Many states passed gambling laws. Initially, they only allowed lotteries and sports betting. Over time, they removed restrictions on casino gaming.
1990 German reunification extended gambling laws to Eastern Germany.
1995 Germany ended restrictions on casino gambling, except for two states that prohibit gambling.
2008 States began working on a new gambling law for Germany, the Interstate Treaty on Gambling.
2012 The Interstate Treaty on Gambling passed, but the European Union prevented its execution. Online gambling became a legal gray area in Germany.
2012 Schleswig-Holstein rejected the treaty and created its own online gambling laws. The state licensed more than twenty online casinos and sports betting sites. These licenses were valid until 2018.
2013 Schleswig-Holstein reversed their decision and opted to join the Interstate Gambling Treaty.
2019 Germany began negotiations on the amendment to the Interstate Gambling Treaty. Schleswig-Holstein created transitionary licenses that allow their regualated sites to continue operating until the new treaty goes into effect.
2020 The new Interstate Gambling Treaty was passed. The Regional Council of Darmstadt began accepting applications for sports betting licenses.

Where to Gamble Online in Germany

Thanks to the Interstate Gambling Treaty, you can legally gamble online in Germany. Your options include online casinos, sports betting, and lottery sales.

There are dozens of online gambling sites in Germany. Check out our recommendations to find the best German online casinos and sports betting sites.

Germany Gambling Laws FAQ

What Is the Punishment for Illegal Online Gambling in Germany?
A

All of Germany’s gambling laws focus on operators and corporations instead of individual players.

Unlicensed gambling sites may face criminal charges, but there are no punishments for players who use those sites.

Can I Use Overseas Casino Sites in Germany?
A

Gambling sites that operate across country borders are subject to European Union laws. You can read more about European gambling laws on our site.

Do I Have to Pay Taxes on Gambling Winnings in Germany?
A

Per the gambling laws in Germany, the country does not charge taxes on winnings. However, some German states may have different tax laws.

What Is the Minimum Age for Gambling in Germany?
A

German laws say that anyone over the age of 18 may legally participate in any form of gambling in Germany.

Is Poker Allowed in Germany?
A

Online poker is allowed under the Interstate Treaty on Gambling of 2021. Poker is also available in land-based casinos in Germany.

Will Germany Allow Online Table Games?
A

The Interstate Treaty on Gambling of 2021 does not include provisions for licensing online casino table games, like blackjack and roulette.

Germany may legalize these games in the future. It will most likely come as an amendment to the current German gambling law. That process could take several years, though.