Are online casinos legal?

Great popularity Are Online Casinos Legal?

In fact, online casinos in Germany operate in a peculiar gray area. And this state of affairs has persisted for years. Actually forbidden, but nevertheless tolerated - this is how one could summarize the confused legal situation. Popular online casinos such as lapalingo casino or slot machines such as fishin frenzy online slot always have one leg up against illegality. This does not detract from the popularity.

State Treaty on Gambling and Schleswig-Holstein's Special Role

© iStock.com / Kosanovic

In Germany, gambling law is a matter for the federal states. Nevertheless, the aim has always been to regulate games of chance across the country. For this purpose there is the instrument of the State Treaty on Gambling - a contractual agreement between the countries in which a uniform framework for gambling laws is laid down. At least that's the theory; practice has proven to be much more complicated over the past 11 years.

A first State Treaty on Gaming came into force in 2008, but expired at the end of 2011. Nevertheless, the gambling laws of the countries based on this remained in force for the time being. As early as September 2011, under the then CDU / FDP state government, Schleswig-Holstein passed a "law on the reorganization of gaming", which was significantly more liberal than other state laws. Among other things, licenses for online casinos could then be granted for a period of five years. That was not possible anywhere else.

Currently no valid international treaty

In 2012, the so-called first gambling amending state treaty came into effect as a successor regulation, which was ratified by all federal states except Schleswig-Holstein. It was limited to 2018 and should then be continued through another State Treaty on Gambling. The first state treaty amending gambling did not provide for the granting of licenses for online casinos in Germany. Schleswig-Holstein joined the contract after a change of government at the beginning of 2013, but licenses for online casinos that had already been granted continued to apply due to grandfathering. New ones have not been awarded since then.

The second State Treaty on Gambling, scheduled for 2018, was drawn up, but not effective due to the resistance of Schleswig-Holstein (renewed change of government) and North Rhine-Westphalia. Hesse, too, had previously stood up against it. In addition, numerous legal disputes have been conducted in the meantime due to existing or intended gambling restrictions. The fact is: there is currently no valid State Treaty on Gambling. Online casino operators invoke EU law and the EU's freedom to provide services at the same time. According to this, EU-compliant service providers must be granted free access to the service markets of all member states.

Online casino operators rely on EU law and the EU's freedom to provide services.

EU law and planned new regulation until 2021

Operators use the more liberal gambling regulations in some EU states and "special areas" to acquire licenses there and from there to serve the German market. Popular license countries are Malta, Cyprus, Gibraltar and the Isle of Man. The German supervisory authorities tolerate such offers, even if they are actually illegal under German law. On the other hand, appearances without a valid EU license (= from outside the EU) are clearly illegal. Nobody can invoke tolerance here either.

The aim is to have ended the unsatisfactory state of limbo by 2021. Then a new gambling amendment should come. It remains to be seen whether this will succeed - the past has shown that gambling is a difficult subject with political pitfalls.