Similar to the United States, Germany does not have any national regulation on gambling. Unlike the rest of Europe, even lotteries are a matter for state regulation instead of federal management. Generally, the Ministry of the Interior for each state will be responsible for gambling legislation.
What’s truly unique to Germany is the way that interstate treaties are handled. Usually, one of the 16 states is assigned as the leader or contact point for the treaty.
For example, Lower Saxony is responsible for interstate lottery matters. So instead of licensing with a number of individual states, a lottery provider can work with Lower Saxony to expedite the process.
History of Gambling Law in Germany
Much like other infrastructure, gambling in Germany was destroyed in World War II. After the war, Germany drew up a fresh constitution. That document made gambling law in Germany a matter for the individual states — at least in the west.
Similar to other countries, German gambling laws focused on lotteries and sports betting, including horse racing, at the start. Casino laws were restrictive. Some states placed residency requirements on casino-goers. These restrictions softened over the years and were gone by 1995.
East German gambling laws only allowed lotteries and betting on horse races — no sports betting, no casinos. After the Reunification in 1990, casinos exploded across the former GDR.
The Interstate Treaty on Gambling
In 2008, the Glücksspielstaatsvertrag (GlüStV), or Interstate Gambling Treaty, was passed. It didn’t last long, as the European Supreme Court found it went against EU rules for fair competition. This re-opened the field.
The first revision to the treaty (GlüÄndStV) came in 2011 and was passed in 2012. This update allowed for online lotteries, interstate lottery jackpots, and casino advertising. Additionally, it allowed 20 bookmakers to operate independently of the state monopoly.
The state of Schleswig-Holstein originally abstained from the treaty and awarded licenses to a handful of online casino operators. In 2012, the state’s government changed and then decided to join the treaty. They allowed the online operators to keep their licenses through 2018.
Recently, Schleswig-Holstein proposed to extend their original licenses through 2021, when the current German online gambling law is set to expire.
German Gambling Laws by Betting Type
In-person card games and table games are absolutely legal. Games with buy-ins under €15 can be run without a state permit. Higher buy-ins will require a state license and are therefore only found at casinos.
It’s only when you get to online gambling laws in Germany that things get really tough. Poker and other card games fall under the GlüStV and are banned.
Sports betting is legal! Germany has a totalized sports betting offering called Oddset available online and off. Additionally, land-based bookmakers are usually available.
You’ll see some of these companies in our list of the top German gambling sites. We’ve included some of the other major players who didn’t get a license from Schleswig-Holstein as well. These sites aren’t bad; they just weren’t lucky enough to get a license before they ran out.
Lotteries are big business in Germany. Since each state can make its own rules, there are a number of popular public and private lotteries. The main lottery is an organization that coordinates all the individual state lotteries: the DLTB. This includes lotteries and totalized sports betting.
There’s also a lottery organization for the two class lotteries. Some of the most popular games include Germany Lotto, GlücksSpirale, 6aus49, and class lotteries.
In what seems to be a pretty unique situation, TV stations actually run lotteries. The main ones are Aktion Mensch and Die Fernsehlotterie.
Since online gambling laws in Germany allow for lotteries to be run online, you can play your favorite lottery at any time. You don’t have to call in or walk to the store for a ticket. Simply go online and pick your numbers.
Slots are available at casinos and slot salons. There are casinos in 14 of Germany’s 16 states. Only Thuringia and Mecklenburg-Vorpommern do not have casinos. Some casinos are state-owned, and some are private. This depends on which state the casino is located in. The majority of casinos are under state ownership.
In addition to casinos, slots appear in slot halls. These businesses provide slots and other games, similar to the “Kleines Glücksspiel” in Austria. There are limits on the amount you can bet and therefore how much you can win in these places, along with other rules to prevent addiction or abusive play.
German online gambling laws right now do not allow online slot play. However, the law has been declared invalid by the European high court. So online slots are a grey area again.
Schleswig-Holstein has taken a surprising move and moved to renew the online casino licenses that it gave out in 2011. These casino licenses are currently expired and should be voted on in May 2019.
Those license holders are as follows.
Cashpoint (Malta) Ltd.
ODDSET Deutschland Sportwetten GmbH
Oddsline Entertainment AG
Primebet International Ltd.
Bwin ElectraWorks Ltd.
Bet-at-home.com Internet Ltd.
Ladbrokes International PLC
Deutsche Sportwetten GmbH
Mybet Personal Exchange International Ltd.
Betfair Polco Ltd.
Bernd Hobiger Wettbüro Goldesel
RULEO Alpenland GmbH
Racebets International Gaming Ltd.
Albers Wettbörsen Deutschland oHG mbH
Bet3000 IBA Entertainment Ltd.
Star Sportwetten GmbH
Where Can I Gamble in Germany?
If you want to gamble in person, there are a variety of methods in all states. There are more than 60 casinos in 14 states that offer slots and table games as well as more than 9,000 slot halls across the country.
You can participate in totalized sports betting and a variety of lottery products at many newsstands and tobacconists. Land-based private bookmakers are also common in every state.
The only place you can’t gamble is online — and that’s only partial. Online gambling laws in Germany let you play the lottery online, and you can bet on sports and horse races online through the lottery. You just can’t play slots online 100% legally. It’s currently a grey market.
Gambling laws in Germany are definitely unique. Casinos and lotteries can be publicly or privately owned. Sports betting is available through the lottery and through private bookmakers as well. And there are also thousands of small slot halls for your gambling pleasure.
Online is more controlled, but it looks like there will be some changes to the German online gambling laws through the actions of Schleswig-Holstein. However, if the government there changes in the next election, any progress could grind to a halt.