Are sports betting legal in Germany – a tricky question


sports betting legal in Germany

Inexperienced users who want to start their sports betting, but do not want to do anything wrong, are always faced with a question: Are sports betting legal in Germany at all? The information on this topic on the Internet is quite sparse and if then partly contradictory. Especially the official pronouncements of the German political guild might have made some betting fans wonder. 

Sports betting in Germany is booming. There is certainly hardly a sports fan who has not already thought about signing up with an online bookmaker and betting his tips successfully. However, many times beginners ask themselves the question – is this over legal? We have gone to the bottom of things in the following guide. Let’s put it right up front. Sports betting on the Internet is legal and takes place in a legally safe framework. Only the local law enforcers have remained in the Stone Age. The directives of the European Union are clear and unambiguous. In the following, we would like to shed some light on the situation.

The facts about sports betting in Germany

  • No official German licenses
  • Bookmakers have secure EU licenses
  • Oddset is to be defended
  • Licensing is turning into a farce
  • Betting tax provides some security

What is the current legal situation in Germany?

The current legal situation in Germany is difficult to describe, as there are actually no regulations or laws. The only official sports betting provider is Oddset. The “state bookie” is supposed to channel all betting. Hardly anyone in Berlin’s government circles has yet recognized that this requirement is richly unworldly, especially against the backdrop of the betting provider’s subterranean quality. There is currently not a single online provider that markets its tips with a German license.

All reputable Internet bookies operate with licenses from other EU countries. In this sector, the supervisory authorities in Malta and Gibraltar in particular have stood out. Due to the freedom of services within the European Union, bookmakers are also allowed to offer their bets in Germany – and completely legally. Even the toughest prohibition junkies cannot get around this unambiguous fact. The online betting offers are completely legal. Behind the betting portals are renowned companies, which can be compared to any other industry.

Interestingly, the federal government had actually taken a run at granting licenses in 2013/14. A total of 20 sports betting providers were to receive corresponding licenses. How the law enforcers come up with the restriction of twenty companies will probably forever remain a mystery.

The selection process was placed under the auspices of the Ministry of the Interior in Hesse – and it came as it had to come. Just a few days after publication of the results, the award procedure was overturned by several courts. It lacks any logic to place two “identical” bookmakers differently in 20th or 21st place on the list. Even the Hessian Ministry of the Interior had to admit that there were actually no clear allocation guidelines. Looking at the farce in retrospect, one can neutrally come to the conclusion that the federal government wanted the failure to happen. According to the motto “we tried, but the courts overturned it,” everything remained the same. To use the Chancellor’s German, the award procedure was “without alternative.

The current legislation

The current legislation

For over five years, private sports betting providers have been waiting for legalization in Germany. Already years ago, the EU has given the guidelines for the bookmaker craft in Europe very precisely. While in many states the markets are openly regulated and transparency has been created, nothing – but nothing at all – has changed in Germany. The stately bookmaker Oddset still has a huge lobby in Berlin government circles. Counterparties in the market are to be blocked under the guise of fighting gambling addiction.

However, the failure of this plan has also been evident for several years. Numerous betting shops have sprung up in the land-based business. Online, there are now over 100 betting providers serving the German market – and they are completely reputable and secure. The only small point is that the companies in the background, even if they have their headquarters in Germany, still have to resort to licenses from abroad. However, due to the freedom of services within the EU, this is practically not a problem.

The German Sports Betting Association, which includes several major companies in the industry, has described the current situation in this country very well on its website on a flight ad board:

  • Sports Betting Licenses – Delayed
  • Black market – Take off
  • Legal security – Cancelled
  • Player protection – Delayed

Why is the legislation behaving so conservatively?

The popular excuse is that customers need to be protected from gambling addiction. However, the word “lie” fits it better at this point. The only reason for the legal circus is to defend Oddset’s market position. In other countries, sports betting has a tradition that goes back a hundred years in some cases, but the German sports bettor has to be protected?

The licenses from Schleswig-Holstein

In 2012, it really seemed as if the German sports betting market was finally to break open. The state government in Schleswig-Holstein began to implement the EU directives. Permits were granted to bookmakers and online casinos, combined of course with corresponding tax revenues for the state coffers. The CDU-FDP government at the time also refused to join the gambling treaty of the federal states. This progressive approach was later overturned by the SPD-Green government. The future of legal sports betting in Germany – or rather in Schleswig Holstein – will probably only become clear after the upcoming state elections.

The licensing attempt from Hesse

Since 2014, it was primarily the Ministry of the Interior in Hesse that was under fire from betting providers. The state government was supposed to distribute twenty regular sports betting licenses in Germany on behalf of the federal government. Surely, every Otto normal consumer will object, why just 20 permits, if there are more than 100 serious betting providers? This objection is justified. Not only the experts foresaw that the licensing would end in chaos. This is exactly how it turned out. The regulations were overturned by several courts within a few weeks after licensing in the spirit of freedom of competition. The entire effort – including a huge waste of taxpayers’ money – was in vain. Even the Hessian Ministry of the Interior had to concede afterwards that there were no clear regulations and specifications for licensing at all.

It is precisely for these reasons that the federal government’s initiative may be regarded as a mere token event. It was tried, but the “evil courts” overturned the licenses. The fact is and remains that the end of the story was a foregone conclusion. In the end, nothing has changed in the overall situation.

The betting tax – the indirect right way

The betting tax

However, there has actually been an important change, which in retrospect even proves to be a small stroke of luck. Since July 2012, bookmakers in Germany have had to pay five percent of their sales to the tax office. Without question, the sports betting tax is and remains a contentious issue, but ultimately it has lifted the industry out of the gray area. Even the government’s word acrobats now find it difficult to explain that sports betting is legally non-existent in Germany when, on the other hand, hundreds of millions of euros end up with the taxman.

The problems of the local legislation

Of course, from a player’s point of view, we do not want to hide an important point. The lack of a legal basis can cause enormous difficulties under certain circumstances. If there are disputes between the customers and the bookmakers, they cannot be settled before the local courts. If a user wants to sue for his winnings, he will face closed doors at the judiciary. Even if the judges want to make a decision, it is impossible due to the non-existent laws.

What will the future of sports betting look like?

Either Germany will eventually introduce the necessary legislation itself or the government will be forced to do so by the EU. Presumably, there is still a long way to go until a final regulation is in place. The fact is, however, that the facts, i.e. sports betting on the Internet, have already checkmated the local legislation.

Licenses from other countries

Currently, the bookmakers are consistently on the ball with EU licenses from other states. However, the licenses also secure the sports betting of local customers to 100 percent. The Malta Gaming Authority and the regulatory authority in Gibraltar have particularly stood out in recent years. Both countries are without question among the pioneers of the online gaming industry. The strict guidelines in Malta and Gibraltar have ensured ever newer and higher security standards for gambling providers.

Conclusion: Sports betting is legal – no sports bettor has to worry about anything

Summing up, it can be stated that sports betting is completely legal due to EU directives. No gambler has to worry about anything. At some point, even German legislation will be caught up by the train of time.

Placing sports bets legally in Germany is possible without any problems nowadays. Although the Berlin government officials still haven’t created any legal, definitive requirements, placing bets with a bookmaker from abroad is not objectionable. The EU license of the betting provider – but also the existing permits from Schleswig Holstein – secure the betting operation based on the EU guidelines.

The tips are placed in a secure environment. Behind the betting platforms are large and secure companies, which need not fear comparison with other industries at any point. From our point of view, it is only a question of time until the government helps sports betting in Germany achieve the corresponding domestic legality from its point of view as well.

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