Germany’s schizoid approach to online casino regulation has resulted in criminal complaints filed against three operators, including GVC Holdings’ Bwin brand.
On Tuesday, German media outlets NDR and Süddeutscher Zeitung reported that the Hamburg Ministry of the Interior & Sport had filed complaints with the state’s public prosecutor against Bwin, German operator Tipico and IBA Entertainment’s Malta-licensed Bet3000 brand. The complaints reportedly center on the operators’ online casino offering.
Germany’s 16 states have agreed on a new online gambling framework that will allow online casino and poker products in addition to sports betting as of July 1, 2021. But there is sharp difference among the states as to what approach should be taken against online casino operators who continue to accept German customers before the new regime takes effect.
Earlier this week, regulators in the state of Hesse signaled a truce with German-facing online casino operators, agreeing to take “no enforcement measures” against operators ahead of the regulated market’s launch. But states such as Hamburg, Saarland and Lower Saxony have shown little interest in tolerating activity they view as currently illegal, regardless of what the future holds.
All three operators cited in the NDR report dismissed the notion that they were conducting business illegally, citing court cases involving operators licensed in jurisdictions such as Gibraltar and Malta to support their arguments.
It’s perhaps worth noting that the trio were among the five operators whose age-verification procedures were publicly shamed in January by a consumer watchdog in the state of Bavaria. The trio also all have sponsorship deal with German football clubs, although the conceit here is that the offering being promoted is sports betting, not casino games.
Speaking of, this week saw the federal government’s drug czar Daniela Ludwig claim that online casino advertising was “not only totally ethically and morally wrong, but also endangers the health of almost 500,000 people in Germany.” Ludwig added that she’d also like to see an end to sports betting advertising and “companies that have been violating applicable law for years should not be rewarded with tolerance.”