Gambling, casinos, slot halls and online casinos in Germany

Germany has a long history of gambling. The earliest land-based casinos opened in Germany in the 18th century. After World War II, a new German constitution made gambling law in West Germany a matter of the individual states. German gambling laws originally focused on lotteries and sports betting, including horse racing. Casino laws were restrictive. These restrictions softened over the years. East German gambling laws allowed lotteries and betting on horse races. Sports betting and casinos were illegal. After the Reunification in 1990, casinos appeared across East Germany. 16 local state authorities have been given the right and responsibility to regulate gambling on their territory. However, online gambling activities in Germany are now monitored and controlled at a higher level. Currently, horse racing betting, online lotteries, and online sports betting can be operated in Germany. Since 2012, licenses for online casinos have only been awarded in the state of Schleswig-Holstein.

Many Germans are involved in gambling activities as part of their pastime. The largest gambling city in Germany is Berlin. The legalized gambling industry brings a turnover of billions of euro every year. According to the Handelsblatt Research Institute, the gross gaming revenue in 2018 amounted to EUR 14.2 billion. EUR 10 billion came from land-based casinos, slot machines, and lotteries, while over EUR 3 billion was generated from an online gambling market. The volume of the illegal gambling market, which mainly attributes to the online gambling market, was estimated between EUR 4 billion to EUR 22 billion (https://www.bmmagazine.co.uk/business/german-gambling-in-numbers/). The minimum gambling age in Germany is 18. Though, the minimum casino age in some German federal states is 21 (e.g. Baden-Württemberg and Bavaria).

Laws and Regulators

Gambling legislation falls within the competency of each of the 16 German federal states. It is regulated by federal legislation to a very limited extent. The main legal framework governing both land-based and online gambling is the Interstate Treaty on Gambling 2012, which sets out the main objectives and core elements of German gambling regulation (https://www.isa-guide.de/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/20120701_gluecksspielstaatsvertrag.pdf). The Treaty was ratified by all German states. The Third Amendment Treaty (https://bravors.brandenburg.de/br2/sixcms/media.php/68/GVBl_I_45_2019-Anlage.pdf) entered into force on January 1, 2020 and will apply until June 30, 2021. The Casino Acts and corresponding Casino Ordinances of individual German states regulate casino gambling.

Schleswig-Holstein introduced its own Gambling Act 2012 under which 23 online casino licenses were issued. Due to joining the Interstate Treaty, the Gambling Act was repealed in 2013, but continued to apply in relation to these license holders until the licenses expired.

As gambling regulation in Germany is principally a matter of state law, most licensing, supervisory, and enforcement powers are executed at state level. The Ministry/Senate of the Interior of the respective state is responsible for gambling-related matters as well as licensing and supervising gambling facilities.

Land Based Casinos

Typically, casino licenses cover table games (roulette, and card games) and slot machine gambling. All German states limit the number of available licenses to some extent and set out the casino locations in their respective Casino Acts. Additional casinos can only be operated if the Government allows for further casinos by passing an ordinance or amending the existing law. Some federal states limit the number of tables and slots allowed in a casino. There are no restrictions on payouts, maximum wins or losses, or the duration of games.

Land-based casinos cannot ban local residents from gambling. Casino controls include age verification checks and matching players’ data with a nationwide database. Casinos bar players who have excluded themselves due to gambling problems or have been determined by casino staff to have a gambling problem. Alcohol is generally allowed in casinos. Smoking is banned in most casinos.

There are about 50 casinos in Germany, most of which are Vegas-style. Half of the German land-based casinos are state-owned; the rest belongs to private enterprises. Most German casinos have a dress code. Many do not stay open 24/7. Available games include table games (roulette, baccarat, blackjack) and slot machines.

Online Gambling

The Interstate Treaty 2012 generally prohibits the operation of online casinos. The only licensed online casinos were licensed in Schleswig-Holstein. Online casino games cannot be operated in other German states. Schleswig-Holstein can no longer issue online casino licenses, but sites with a valid license were allowed to operate up to 2019. Later, the licensed online providers were granted a temporary permit to operate online casinos (licenses granted in 2012 and 2013) until June 30, 2021 only for Schleswig-Holstein-based customers. Twelve providers are currently offering online casino games based on a Schleswig-Holstein permit.

Third Amendment Treaty 2019 maintains the ban on online casinos. The area of online casinos is still not regulated. A further amendment of the State Treaty (after June 30, 2021) is expected to set up a regulatory framework which will mean issuing online casino licenses in other German states.

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