German-facing online casinos are losing their ability to access Visa or Mastercard services as the government puts the squeeze on unauthorized gambling transactions.
On Wednesday, German media outlet NDR reported that Visa had instructed its partner banks not to process online casino deposits or withdrawals using its credit cards. A Visa spokesperson said its retail banking partners were recently contacted “to ensure that only legal, properly licensed transactions are processed.”
In recent weeks, online gambling affiliate forums had been filling up with complaints that this or that online casino was no longer accepting Visa or Mastercard payments for their German customers. The casinos generally stated that it was either suspend these German payments or lose Visa or Mastercard access in all markets.
That said, the situation isn’t entirely uniform. NDR found that, while local betting operator Tipico had removed all mention of Visa from its platform, GVC Holdings’ Bwin brand was telling German customers that they could continue using Visa for sports betting only.
Furthermore, NDR found that attempts to fund accounts at both Tipico and Bwin were successful. Representatives of both sites told NDR that they viewed the German state treaty on gambling that supposedly criminalizes online casino activity as incompatible with European Union law.
Germany’s efforts to cut off payments to and from internationally licensed gambling sites started with payment processor PayPal last June, which cut off its German customers a few months later. This January, the Lower Saxony Ministry of the Interior reminded German banking industry associations of their online gambling obligations.
In April, the same Ministry announced that it had “once again prohibited an internationally active payment service provider from participating in payment transactions in connection with illegal gaming in Germany.” The provider in question went unmentioned, but the Ministry said “further prohibition orders” were going out to other processors.
The Ministry told NDR this week that it was talking with 19 unidentified payment processors, of which nine had already stopped processing payments for German-facing online casinos.
Germany’s current online gambling licensing plans – which would authorize online casino play, albeit with severe limitations – were recently thrown into disarray when an Austrian bookmaker convinced a court that the licensing process lacked transparency. German officials insist this is a minor blip that won’t slow down its schedule, which aims to have a regulated online market in place by July 1, 2021.
GERMAN ONLINE CASINO INTEREST SOARS
As with many other markets, German gamblers turned their attention to online casino products as COVID-19 forced the mass cancellation of major sports and shuttered land-based gaming options. Google Trends data showed searches for ‘online casino’ spiked 85% between mid-March and mid-April, hitting an all-time high since Google began recording such data in 2004.
Interestingly, searches for ‘online sports betting’ during this period were essentially flat compared to the same period last year, despite this year’s lack of sports on which to wager.