Germany’s schizoid approach to online casino regulation has led to criminal charges being lodged against three operators, including the Bwin brand of GVC Holdings.
German media outlets NDR and Süddeutscher Zeitung announced on Tuesday that the Hamburg Ministry of Interior & Sport had lodged complaints with the state public prosecutor against the Malta-licensed Bet3000 brand of Bwin, German operator Tipico and IBA Entertainment. The allegations reportedly centre on the online casino service of the operators.
In addition to sports betting, Germany’s 16 states have agreed on a new online gambling system which will require online casino and poker products as of July 1, 2021. But there is a sharp difference between the states as to what approach to online casino operators who continue to accept German customers before the new regime comes into effect.
Regulators in the state of Hesse announced a truce with German-facing online casino operators earlier this week, promising to take “no enforcement measures” against operators ahead of the controlled market launch. But states like Hamburg, Saarland and Lower Saxony have shown little interest in tolerating activity that they consider illegal at the moment, regardless of what the future holds.
All three operators cited in the NDR report denied the suggestion that they were unlawfully doing business, citing court cases involving operators licenced in jurisdictions like Gibraltar and Malta to support their claims.
It may be worth noting that the trio was among the five operators whose age-verification procedures were publicly shamed by a consumer watchdog in the state of Bavaria in January. The trio do all have sponsorship agreement with German football teams, but the conceit here is that sports betting is the bid being advertised, not casino games.
Speaking of which, this week drug czar Daniela Ludwig of the federal government claimed 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 would also like to see an end to sports betting advertising and that “companies that have been violating applicable law for years should not be rewarded with tolerance.”