Prominent global online poker site Unibet Poker has disclosed to its customers in Germany that, as of July 1, 2021, much of the site’s offerings will no longer be available to those players. Due to changes in Germany’s tax laws, Unibet will no longer offer cash games or single-table tournaments (aka, sit-n-gos or SNGs).
The planned changes mean that only two areas of poker action will be available to Unibet’s German players — multi-table tourneys (MTTs) and the site’s popular jackpot-tourney variant, Hexapros. Also on the “no longer available” list in Germany: rewards that could be earned by players through Unibet’s loyalty program.
“We felt it was best for the players to give you this information as soon as possible to allow you to the maximum time to use bonus points, tickets, and bonuses if you normally play one of the affected game types,” wrote Unibet’s Andrew Paton in the site’s community forum. “We would also like to reiterate that these are proposed changes and are subject to change if there are any developments regarding the implementation of the new tax before July 1st.”
New German rollover tax takes prohibitive bite
The culprit responsible for Unibet’s decision to yank its cash games and SNGs from the German poker market is the country’s new State Treaty on Gambling, which takes effect on July 1 after being ratified by all 16 German states. The new treaty’s rules call for a 5.3% rollover tax on both online slots and online poker, which in the case of poker, translates to more than half of all the net revenue generated by the games. The allegedly prohibitive tax rates also dash the promise for a broadly regulated German online poker scene that seemed poised to flourish only a year ago.
Germany’s federal legislative body, the Bundesrat, ignored the gambling industry’s warning in opting for a rollover tax. The tax rate was lowered, however, from an initial proposed rate of 8% that likely would have meant no operators would even attempt to operate within the country’s framework. Gambling operators and industry lobbying groups such as the European Gaming and Betting Association (EGBA) urged, to no avail, that Germany instead mirror most other regimes and assess taxes as a percentage of gross gambling revenue (GGR).
The EGBA issued a statement earlier this month saying that Germany’s new taxation scheme will end up driving consumers to unregulated sites, and alleging that the scheme itself is illegal under European law. According to the EGBA, the new tax rules breach European Union law by favoring land-based gambling operators compared to the excessively taxed online sites.
Unibet carries on in Germany — in a limited fashion
While Unibet’s German players will no longer have access to cash games and SNGs, Unibet did acknowledge that the planned withdrawal could be reversed if the country’s legislators rethink the situation. For the time being, Unibet promised to “eat the tax” on the MTTs and Hexapros, though it warned that could change as well.
Meanwhile, the Kindred Group-owned offering promised to make good on all bonuses and loyalty rewards earned to date by its players. Some challenge rewards and earned bonuses will be converted to cash, based on percentages earned, and while no new bonus points or rewards can be earned as of July 1, the site’s bonus store will continue to operate to allow players to cash out accumulated balances.
Unibet won’t be shutting down any accounts, either, meaning that its German players can continue to participate in the limited formats available, or can cash out balances at their leisure.