Minority political parties in Schleswig-Holstein have urged the German state’s ruling coalition to work out a unified online gambling deal with Germany’s other 15 states. As they see it, going it alone risks transforming Schleswig-Holstein into the “Las Vegas of Germany.” (Das Vegas?) The request/suggestion/plea comes after the coalition abruptly postponed an Aug. 24th vote on its draft gaming law earlier this week, ahead of scheduled meetings with other state leaders.
Germany’s existing State Gambling Treaty, under which the state holds a monopoly on sports betting and lotteries, expires at the end of this year. Schleswig-Holstein had planned to impose a 20% gross profits tax on all forms of online betting, an approach much favored by operators over the other 15 states’ plan for a 16.67% turnover tax on sports betting alone. The European Commission recently flagged this latter plan as incompatible with its anti-protectionist principles.
Opposition members in the Social Democratic Party (SPD), South Schleswig Voter Federation (SSW) and Green Party believe the only way forward “must be a joint state contract,” as Green Party member Monika Heinold told the Kielen Nachrichten newspaper. But are the other states in a bargaining mood? Martin Stadelmaier, SPD leader of Rhineland-Palatinate, told Games & Business that if a consensus couldn’t be reached, the other states were content to approve their original plan, EC opinion be damned. “We want Schleswig-Holstein on board, but not at any price.” The signing of a new treaty is expected by Dec. 16, with the states having until Easter 2012 to ratify the deal.
Online gambling operators (bwin.party, in particular) will likely be concerned that Schleswig-Holstein will ultimately figure it has bigger fish to fry than butting heads with the other 15 states over gambling laws. Schleswig-Holstein’s ruling coalition, consisting of the Christian Democrats (CDU) and Free Democratic Party (FDP), is currently a bit wobbly after CDU leader Christian von Boetticher stepped down earlier this week once his romantic relationship with a 16-year-old girl was brought to light. The most recent opinion poll published by the Lübecker Nachrichten newspaper had the CDU falling behind the SPD in voter preference, with the Greens coming third. State elections are scheduled nine months from now.