BUSINESS

Guts.com exits Germany; federal betting laws attacked from inside and out

TAGs: Amaya Gaming, Deutsche Sportwettenverband, European Commission, german sports betting association, Germany, Guts.com, PokerStars

germany-guts-com-pokerstars-dswvMalta-licensed online gambling operator Guts.com has announced it’s withdrawing from the German market after a recent court case involving a player fined €65k for playing on an unauthorized international online casino site.

Guts.com affiliates reported receiving emails this week telling them that German accounts will be locked “from 16th February 2015.” Withdrawals will be processed following that date but affiliates will no longer be able to send German players to Guts.com. The decision mimics the recent withdrawal from Germany of the Gibraltar-licensed Mansion Group.

Guts.com apologized for the inconvenience but said the move was necessary due to the recent Munich court verdict, which “goes against everything the [European Union} stands for.” Guts said it expects the verdict to be overturned, but until then, caution was the name of the game.

GERMAN BETTING ASSOCIATION TELLS GOV’T TO GET A MOVE ON
Germany currently permits only online sports betting and even that situation is legally murky. The 20 federal online sports betting licenses issued in September are currently mired in legal limbo as non-recipients challenged both the artificial cap on the number of licenses and the flawed licensing process.

This week, the recently formed sports betting industry group Deutsche Sportwettenverband (DSWV) said the legal uncertainty has been a boon to the “booming black market.” The DSWV, whose members include both domestic and international operators, said the situation is “only a logical consequence of the German licensing chaos.” The DSWV would love to “immediately initiate legal action against illegal vendors” on its own initiative but until its members’ had some legal clarity regarding their own status, “our hands are tied.”

The DSWV also believes the licensing process needs to be resolved as a matter of fairness to the private operators who pay the bulk of the country’s betting taxes. Citing figures from the Ministry of Finance, the DSWV said private sports betting operators paid 97% of the total €226m in federal betting tax in 2014, leaving just 3% contributed by state-owned operator Oddset.

UKIP MEMBER WANTS GERMAN BETTING LAW ANSWERS
Germany’s betting laws are also being attacked from abroad. Stuart Agnew, a Member of the European Parliament from the UK Independence Party, recently asked the European Commission (EC) to clarify whether Germany’s Interstate Gambling Treaty was compliant with European Union law.

The EC had reached a “gentleman’s agreement” with Germany to delay infringement proceedings against the treaty but this two-year delay expired last July. Agnew wants to know if the EC has decided that the Treaty is compliant and, if not, why has the EC not initiated infringement proceedings against Germany like it has against Sweden’s suspect laws?

POKERSTARS JOINS GERMAN LOBBYING EFFORT
Finally, while approving the stalled federal betting licenses wouldn’t do online casinos or poker companies much good, that doesn’t mean those operators are passively accepting their plight. Online poker giant PokerStars recently joined the German Association of Telecommunications and Media (DVTM). Eric Hollreiser, spokesman for both Stars and its new corporate parent Amaya Gaming, said he hopes other likeminded gaming firms will follow Stars’ lead.

At a recent DVTM dinner in Munich, Hollreiser told attendees that the gaming industry “must work together to develop an effective impact.’ Holreiser said the ultimate goal was a “consumer-oriented, legally compliant and EU compliant regulation of the German online gaming market.” We’ll be sure to check back in in a few years to see how that’s going.

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