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Germany Flag
Germany Flag


Germany has, like a few other countries, had a difficult affiliation with gambling in the past. The first legal casino in the country opened in the territory of Baden in 1765, and it was at this time that casinos were considered places to drink, gamble and socialise, much like many of today’s establishments. It’s often said that the game of poker derived its name from the German word ‘pochen’, meaning to brag or bluff. However, you may find that playing this game online could be quite difficult to come by. While there have been a few changes in recent years to Germany’s rather stringent laws on gambling, the federal government has held firm against the ever pushing European Union, maintaining its hold on the gambling monopoly there.

However, this is done despite the fact that sports betting and casino gambling in land-based establishments is completely legal, and even more so, a nice source of tax income for the government. In modern day Germany, there are roughly about 50 brick and mortar casinos available to play in and several gambling halls completing the set up. These establishments offer not only gambling rooms, but bars, restaurants, dance halls, and several other entertaining features for customers. They don’t hold too many differences to those found in Las Vegas. Card games maintain strong popularity in the country, as well as one or two table games and slots. Most of the casinos will charge a small entry fee to players, and also maintain a strict dress code alongside. What’s more, anyone wanting to begin playing must also sign a debt guarantee beforehand.

However, while the laws brought in to the country regarding physical casinos seem to have settled nicely in to place, there have been a lot of ups and downs when it comes to Germany’s rules surrounding online gaming. There’s a lot of grey areas in the laws – which is something that can be said about many countries’ laws on this industry – so, it’s difficult to fully say what exactly is legal and what isn’t on the whole.

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The Online Story

Even though there are many casinos spread throughout Germany, it is not currently legal for any of these companies, or for any other within the country to offer gambling services online. Both online casinos and sports bookmakers were effectively banned under the Interstate Treaty on Gambling (ITG), which came into effect on 1st January 2008. The only exception to this was betting on horse racing – a sport which is legally regulated by state-backed operators. Under the aforementioned treaty, the German government was given the power to ask internet service providers to block access to all such sites, and there are even laws in place to sanction German banks from processing transactions with gambling companies.

This has been thoroughly challenged by many firms and people, including the European Gaming and Betting Association, who believe that the treaty in place goes against EU rules relating to the industry. The European Court of Justice agreed with such, and ruled that the government of the country would have to open up what it considers as a state monopoly. As far as the German government’s response, an update was added to the initial treaty in 2012, allowing the provisions for a maximum of 20 national licences for sports betting to be awarded, with bookmakers paying a 5% tax on every wager placed. Unfortunately, the deadline for government decisions on the more-than-100 submissions for these 20 licences has been pushed back on a continual basis. As of yet, none have been granted.

However, one of the law’s grey areas has since offered online gambling into the German market legally. In January of 2012, Schlesweig-Holstein, the northernmost state of the country, decided to create its own laws around gambling. This has seen 50 licences provided to online sports bookmakers, casinos and poker rooms, some of which contain a selection of games from Netent. These liberal rules brought high praise from the EU and, of course, online gamers as well.

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The Future of Gambling in Germany

Because of the introduction of their own laws in Schlesweig-Holstein, the ITG has forced Germany to turn to the European Court of Justice in order to decide whether the rogue state’s licences can co-exist with the country’s strict rules around online gambling. Depending upon the results of this, Germany could be forced to open up its gambling market in order to adhere to European competition. For the moment, German players can play a selection of games ranging from poker and slots through to table games, at the variety of sites which have been granted licences from the northern state, all of which will be in effect until at least 2018.

Not only that, but there’s a strong amount of online platforms which are hosted outside of Germany, who also offer their services to citizens of the country. Some of these have even had their websites translated into German, in order to cater these residents. Because they’re based outside of the country, they aren’t beholden to the laws of the country, and so can therefore accept wagers from anyone within.

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