New Online Gaming Laws Turn Germany’s Gray Market into Golden Opportunity

Despite the ongoing coronavirus crisis, the wheels of progress turned forward in Germany earlier this month as heads of state agreed new online gaming laws.

German flag

Germany’s 16 heads of state have made online gaming legal on a federal level. (Image: Flickr/fdecomite)

As news of cancellations and postponements ring out across the industry, German poker players received some welcome news last week. Meeting in Berlin, the country’s 16 state leaders agreed that online poker and casino gaming will become legal on July 1, 2021.

Online Gaming Law Clears Up Confusion

Previously, Germany’s online gaming industry existed in a grey area. Until 2008, online poker and casino gaming was unregulated. To address the changing dynamics across Europe, the federal government introduced the Interstate Treaty on Gambling (ITG) in 2008.

This law prohibited online gaming inside Germany. However, the law didn’t specifically outlaw betting on sites based outside of the country. Using this, in addition to European Union (EU) laws relating to freedom of trade, online operators remained active in Germany.

In 2012, IGT was updated to allow each of Germany’s 16 states to decide their own fate. The Schleswig-Holstein region opted to regulate online gaming and license a number of operators. A year later it reversed its positions but, legally, the licenses couldn’t be revoked until 2018.

Despite the confusing interplay between law and reality, online gaming never fully stopped in Germany. However, with money to be made, the federal government has now taken charge of the situation.

In January 2020, the 16 heads of state considered an update to IGT. All 16 eventually agreed to change the law and, following a meeting on March 12, the revisions were ratified.

The new Interstate Treaty on the Revision of Gambling Legislation will go into effect on July 1, 2021. When it does, online poker and casino gaming will become legal in Germany, both on state and federal levels. What’s more, it will open up the country to a new list of licensees.

Positives and Negatives for Poker Players

Before the regulatory framework is put in place, some revisions may be necessary. Although many of the restrictions apply to casino gaming, the regulations across the board aren’t as liberal as those in other countries.

Like in the UK, German operators will only be able to advertise their products at certain times. As per the new Treaty, commercials can’t be aired between 6 am and 9 pm.

For slots, the maximum stake per spin will be €1/$1.10. Moreover, autoplay options will be disabled and the duration of a spin must be at least five seconds.

For poker, there will be mandatory limits on the minimum stake. Additionally, there will be a maximum limit on the amount of money a player can have in play. Finally, multi-tabling is prohibited, in principle. However, the regulator does have the option to override this at its discretion. In these instances, players could play up to four tables simultaneously.

The regulation of online gaming in Germany appears to be a double-edged sword. Creating a federal framework and turning a grey market into a white one is a positive step. However, under the new regulations, players will be subject to some unusual restrictions.

Be that as it may, progress has been made. Germany is home to some of the world’s best poker players, including Fedor Holz, who is eighth on the all-time money list. With online gaming set to be legal in 2021, the next generation of pros now has a chance to hone their skills at home without the uncertainty of playing in a grey market.

Daniel Smyth
Written by
Daniel Smyth
Dan Smyth is a poker media journeyman who politely reminds CardsChat readers that poker is played all around the world, not just America.

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