Online Gambling in Germany

Like in many other countries, Germany has struggled with legalizing online gambling at the state and federal level. Without knowing the long-term risks of online gaming, it has been difficult to implement consistent regulations within the country.

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Also, with the emergence of new, technology-based currencies, the Germany Government is attempting to keep up with the changes. In recent years, more solid regulations have been implemented but there are still some gaps as technology continues to expand.

In 2008, online gambling was deemed illegal in Germany via an interstate treaty. However, since gambling is regulated at the state, and not federal, level, the State of Schlewsig-Holstein did not sign the treaty and created its own online gaming law instead. The result was that only licensed sites in Schleswig-Holstein were legal but available for all Germany players to enjoy.

In 2012, this treaty was amended to ban all online casinos, lotteries and only a limited few online sportsbooks could continue operating. The State of Schlewsig-Holstein decided to sign the treaty to no longer issue online gaming licenses and those existing sites had six years to continue operations.

Thankfully for German players, the ban is only applicable to domestic online gambling. In 2016, the EU determined that Germany is unable to restrict of penalize foreign operators. Also, players cannot be prosecuted for participating in games at offshore online casinos, most of which accept German players and even offer a German language setting.

For those who are interested in online Bingo, the same rules apply; domestic operation is illegal but foreign games are legal. Ironically, land-based bingo parlors can legally receive a license but, since the popularity is low, only few exist in the country. Poker is in the same boat, despite the constant disagreement that poker requires more strategy and skill than luck. Therefore, many consider poker (online or real-world) to be a sport rather than gambling. Brick-and-mortar poker halls are legally and continue to open across the country.

Sports betting is typically considered to be the most popular gambling type in Germany, especially with regards to football. This does not come as a surprise considering German football teams consistently rank as the best in the world. From 2008 to 2012, online sports betting was banned but then amended to allow 20 licensed online sportsbooks across the country. Prior to this agreement, there was a single monopoly for online and offline betting. In 2016, the German court determined that 20 license restrictions are illegal and opened the entire sports betting market to the EU.

Across the world, the lottery is the most common type of gambling. It is a safe bet that wherever gambling is legal, there is a national lottery. The most popular lottery in Germany is Lotto 6 aus 49 but players can also participate in Keno and Euro Millions. For many years, lottery tickets were unavailable online but that has changed. German players also have the freedom to purchase lottery tickets in foreign markets.

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In 2013, the German Finance Ministry announced that bitcoin is a “unit of account” which can be utilized for taxation and trade within the country. To date, bitcoin is not considered to be e-money or a foreign currency. However, there is no specific regulation with regards to Bitcoin gambling. Since Bitcoin transactions typically take place on the Internet, Bitcoin gambling is considered online gambling which is illegal to operate domestically but legal to utilize internationally.

In general, online gambling is domestically outlawed across the country. At 2018, the remaining sites shut down in Schleswig-Holstein as part of the treaty. Currently, there is no way to obtain a license to offer games. The irony of the German online gambling laws is it violates the EU's rules on competition and free trade. The EU has even gone as far as chastising Germany for its strict laws, but the government continues to take a strong stance on the activity.