Germany’s online gambling market is closing a chapter as the first online casino licenses issued in the state of Schleswig-Holstein start to expire.
This week, UK-listed gambling operator GVC Holdings, the parent company of the Bwin betting brand, informed its affiliate partners that its German-facing online casino brands would no longer accept PayPal. Casino News Daily quoted from a GVC email saying the PayPal option would go dark for its German casino customers effective December 19.
Many online gambling sites have been restricting their German-facing operations ever since a late-2017 court ruling that barred international operators from offering services to German gamblers. This week has seen a number of operators follow this lead, including Gauselmann Group’s Merkur Gaming brand, whose German customers learned that they would lose access to the site’s online casino as of December 18.
Both Merkur and GVC’s new restrictions coincide with the expiration of the online casino licenses issued six years ago this week by the state of Schleswig-Holstein (S-H). The state famously broke with the other 15 German states by not signing the 2012 federal gambling treaty, which permitted only online sports betting, opting instead for its own full-spectrum online licensing regime.
Shortly after S-H issued its casino licenses, a new state government took the reins, and decided it would sign on to the federal treaty after all, leaving the future of its casino licenses unclear. In 2017, another new S-H government suggested it would stick with its old licensing regime and again declined to sign on to a revised federal treaty, but there have been no concrete pronouncements regarding the fate of those original licenses.
The original crop of 12 S-H casino and poker licensees included notables such as PokerStars, Bet365, Bet-at-home, Tipico and Skill On Net. It remains to be seen how these operators — particularly those with less hard ties to Germany than Merkur or GVC’s Bwin — intend to proceed given the removal of their fig leaf of German respectability.