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The legalities of online gambling in Germany are well-known to be unstable and changeable, making it difficult for players to know exactly where they stand. In this article, we'll look at gambling laws in Germany in recent years and how the changing situation has affected Germans and their ability to play casino games and bet on sports within their own country.

Gambling regulations in germany

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Germany's gambling laws are particularly interesting because each country's 16 states can determine its stance. Of course, as the governments of these states come and go, so too can their stance on the gambling legislation at the time.

In many cases, the laws around online gambling regulation in Germany can vary from one form of betting to the next. Here, we look at each form of gambling to discuss its legalities.

Casino Games

Until recently, all forms of gambling in Germany were illegal, with no reference specifically to online gambling.The law specified that it is illegal for any company within the country to offer gambling services to residents. Still, with nothing prohibiting players from gambling online in Germany, people could play at online casinos as long as the online gambling sites weren't based in the country. Indeed, not a single German has ever been prosecuted for playing online real-money casino games.

The Interstate Treaty on Gambling 2021 is the most recent piece of legislation that deals with gambling in Germany, only this time, in contrast to previous iterations, this legislation also includes online gambling. While these new regulations allow online casino sites to offer their services to Germans legally, no licences have yet been issued.

The only sites that are legally permitted to offer online casino games to German residents at present are those that were granted a licence by Schleswig-Holstein, the only state in Germany that opted out of the 2012 Interstate Treaty on Gambling (which was never ratified) and began issuing its licences. These licence holders have been granted regulatory approval until the latest Treaty comes into force.

The most recent Interstate Treaty does not cover live dealer or RNG-driven table games like Roulette and Blackjack; the new legislation covers only online casino slots.

Poker

As for slots at online casino Germany sites, poker games are subject to the regulatory requirements outlined in the latest Interstate Treaty 2021, which permits players to enjoy online poker gaming only at licensed websites.

Since the legislation is still relatively new, there are currently only a limited number of sites at which German players can access online poker games. These are primarily the sites that held a licence issued by Schleswig-Holstein during the state's one-year period of self-determined licensing outside of the 2012 Interstate Treaty, which has been allowed to keep their licence status until the new legislation is applied.

Bingo

Interestingly, bingo games fall under a different part of German gambling law, which permits lotteries to operate within the country. That means residents can play bingo games as long as it is through a state-approved vendor.

This translates to online bingo gambling because it is technically permitted. However, it remains to be seen how this will be applied according to the latest Interstate Treaty, especially in online casinos and standalone bingo sites, which usually host the games.

Lotteries

There are numerous local, state and national lotteries in Germany, with the law permitting the purchase of lottery tickets on the basis that these are games of chance and, therefore, come under the regulatory requirements of the Interstate Treaty 2021. To comply with the law, only approved vendors can sell lottery tickets, and people can also buy tickets online.

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Social games based on skill or free-to-play do not fall under Germany's latest Interstate Treaty 2021, as they are not classed as gambling.

Sportsbet laws

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Sports betting is much more accessible in Germany than other forms of gambling, with many sportsbooks offering pre-match and live betting opportunities across the country.

Generally speaking, there are unlimited licences for sports betting operators in Germany, but horse racing is regulated separately, with only a limited number of licences for parimutuel horse racing bets permitted. This is because horse racing licences in the country are granted to specific racetracks. The law is equally permissive of online sports betting within the country, with licence holders allowed to offer a wide range of sports betting markets to German residents.

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Only those aged 18 or over may legally participate in the various forms of gambling in Germany.

Tax Regulation

The Race Betting and Lotteries Act regulates taxation on gambling in Germany, with the most recent iteration of the act (2021) introducing a 5.3% tax on all slots, poker and sports betting stakes, whether at licensed or unlicensed sites. While much of this has been passed directly onto players, some sites have absorbed the costs to keep their player base.

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The history of gambling in Germany dates back to Roman times, with soldiers spreading their gambling habits throughout Europe. Germany hosts two of the world's oldest casinos: the Casino Wiesbaden, built in 1810, and the Kurhaus, built in 1824. Casino gaming faced many ups and downs in history, with casinos closing in 1872, reopening in 1933, closing again due to World War 2, and opening again in 1950.

At the end of the war, gambling as a whole became regulated by West German states, with access to establishments granted only to those with proof of residency.

In 1995, these regulations were overhauled, and by the end of the century, Germany recognized the value of gambling and attempted to monopolize the industry. The first Interstate Treaty on Gambling passed in 2012 but was blocked by the European Union in favour of open competition. Schleswig-Holstein opted out of the 2012 Treaty, licensing around two dozen online casinos and sports betting sites before returning to the Treaty in 2013.

Germany started working on a revised Interstate Treaty in 2019. Schleswig-Holstein issued transitionary licences to their existing licensees, allowing them to continue legally operating until the new legislation was passed. The revised Interstate Treaty on Gambling was passed in 2021, with the country ready to issue individual licences to sites offering slots, poker games and sports betting.

Key facts

Key Facts

For a long time, the gambling industry in Germany was nonexistent due to its strict illegality, with the possibility of online gambling left in a bit of a grey area. However, thanks to the Interstate Treaty on Gambling 2021, you can now legally play slots and poker games and bet on sports at various licensed websites within Germany. Live dealer and RNG-based table games like Blackjack, Roulette and Baccarat are not yet covered by the Treaty, with licensed operators not permitted to offer these games to German players.

Mike Lorente
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Mike started his CasinoTopsOnline journey as a freelance writer and joined the team full-time shortly after. His expertise and knowledge base on casino bonuses has become extensive over the years. With a passion for giving our readers all the tips and strategies on which casino offer suits them best, Mike delivers detailed articles and goes the extra mile by explaining all the fine print in the bonus terms and conditions to help players around the world make an informed decision which is beneficial to them, no matter what experience they have.
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