You won’t find many European countries with a more confusing and complicated set of gambling laws than Germany. The EU member nation is made up of 16 individual states, each of which is responsible for their own gaming enforcement and regulatory authorities.
Since the passing of the Interstate Treaty in 2012, the entire industry has been in a state of flux, leading to the shuttering of numerous betting houses, while unlicensed offshore locations are growing in popularity.
Many German gambling experts feel that excess bureaucracy is significantly damaging this massive industry, with the nation’s citizens wagering roughly €3.5 billion between licensed sites in other EU states and unregulated websites outside of the EU.
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In this legal guide, we’ll walk you through the tangled mess that is the German gambling industry. We’ll look at the most impactful gaming laws, which activities are legal and regulated, state regulatory bodies, and where you can go to access safe betting without fear of being scammed or punished by the government.
Why Are These Sites Recommended?
There’s much more to the German gambling site recommendations above than simply being accessible to residents in Germany. Our team of experts carefully researches every betting website, vetting them for a range of factors designed to ensure that bettors will have the best online gaming possible.
While we won’t bore you with every detail of our review process, we can promise that any recommendation found here will meet all of the following standards.
Legitimacy, Reliability, and Safety
Ensuring that all of our recommended sites are 100% ethical, secure, and reliable is the most crucial service we could offer to new gamblers.
They accuse users of cheating or of being a professional gambler, using these excuses to void winning wagers. Our team of experts will not send you to such a site; you can rest assured that they are all filtered out well before our list of recommendations is created.
Ease of Use/Great Website Design
Mobile device compatibility is considered in our recommendation rankings as well.
Valuable Bonuses and Loyalty Rewards
Loyalty rewards programs can be even more valuable. Once you’ve developed some relatively consistent gambling patterns, your gaming site will either use a point system or assign you to a tier, based on how frequently you gamble and the size of your average wager. Even average players can expect gifts such as merchandise, gift cards, or cash back on a portion of their losses, while the high-rollers have been known to collect luxury items like vehicles and vacations.
Is Gambling Legal in Germany?
Since 2012, this has been an increasingly difficult question to answer. Land-based casinos and slot machine halls are currently licensed at the state level and mostly legal, although recent federal anti-problem-gambling measures have seen the closing of numerous locations throughout the nation.
In Germany, the gaming industry is in a significant transitional period. Since passing the Interstate Treaty, there have been numerous questions regarding what’s legal and what’s not, which is made that much harder with each of Germany’s sixteen regions responsible for their own licensing and regulation strategies, while also waiting for some unified laws to emerge.
In the meantime, the domestic gaming market is losing significant ground to their online counterparts who are either licensed in other EU jurisdictions or entirely unregulated, depending on the website. The German government prefers residents to access the EU-authorized locations, but individuals need not worry about any punishments or fines for using any offshore providers.
The Interstate Treaty on Gambling
At the moment, Germany’s Interstate Treaty on Gambling bans online casinos while offering no licensing procedures. The EU member state grew concerned with the addictive qualities of slots and casino games and decided to act quickly to ban games of chance. The only online betting activities that are currently legal are horserace betting, sports wagers, and lotteries.
Now, it’s important to understand that the Interstate Treaty isn’t meant to ban many forms of gambling permanently. To date, the sixteen states just haven’t agreed on federal guidelines that could allow for country-wide licensing for sports betting, for example, rather than forcing operators to get permitted in each individual state.
In the meantime, the regulatory officials in Schleswig-Holstein have successfully pushed for a transitional arrangement. Any EU-based gaming provider may obtain a temporary license which allows them to serve the Schleswig-Holstein market until the licensing regulations under the Interstate Treaty (or a new treaty/law) are determined.
German States and Their Regulatory Authorities
|Baden-Wurttemberg||Ministry of the Interior, Digitization and Migration|
|Bavaria||Ministry of Interior, for Construction and Transport|
|Berlin||Senate Department for Home Affairs and Sports|
|Brandenburg||Ministry of the Interior and for communal|
|Bremen||The Senator Interior of the Free Hanseatic City of Bremen|
|Hamburg||Department of Home Affairs and Sports|
|Hesse||Ministry of the Interior and Sports|
|Mecklenburg-Vorpommern||Ministry of the Interior and Europe|
|Lower Saxony||Ministry of Interior and Sports|
|North Rhine-Westphalia||Ministry of the Interior|
|Rheinland-Pfalz||Ministry of the Interior and Sports|
|Saarland||Ministry of Interior, Building and Sport|
|Saxony||State Ministry of the Interior|
|Saxony-Anhalt||Ministry of the Interior and Sports|
|Schleswig-Holstein||Ministry of Interior and Federal Affairs|
|Thuringia||Ministry of Interior and Municipal|
Legal Status of Various Gambling Activities in Germany
Horse race betting is federally legal both at brick-and-mortar locations and online. This form of gaming is regulated under the Race Betting and Lottery Act as well as the Interstate Treaty of 2012.
The Regional Council of Darmstadt in Hesse is responsible for issuing licenses nationally, with no limit to the number of permits available.
Slot machines can be found throughout Germany at land-based establishments such as casinos, arcades, betting houses, and bars. Some basic legal framework for slots is spelled out in the Trade Regulation Act and Gaming Ordinance, with rules relating to the minimum distance betting halls must maintain between themselves and other gaming spots, schools, etc.
Online slots are currently illegal under the Interstate Treaty, with the exception of some grandfathered internet casinos launched during Schleswig-Holstein’s single year of independent gaming regulation.
Online casinos are facing the same situation as slot machines.
However, during this transitional period while the country waits for the Interstate Treaty licensing procedures, some internet-based casinos with a gaming permit from other EU jurisdictions are offering services in Schleswig-Holstein.
Poker has not been addressed by the Interstate Treaty but is included in most states’ Casino Acts and Ordinances as a standard casino table game.
The exception is Saxony-Anhalt, a region whose laws specifically list poker as being permitted in their gambling establishments.
Casinos are a matter of state law in each of the 16 different German jurisdictions with no federal oversight.
There are over 50 brick-and-mortar casinos spread out all over the EU member nation.
The state lottery companies have a monopoly over this form of gambling and are the only companies considered for lotto licensing.
Private businesses can obtain distribution permits, but these just allow the broker to sell lottery tickets on behalf of the state regulatory authority.
Sports betting is a legal, regulated market with land-based and online options available.
However, this form of wagering is defined exclusively as fixed-odds betting on sporting events. Licensed bookmakers may not offer odds on non-sports events such as politics or entertainment.
Germany’s History with Gambling
Once in compliance with the EU, the treaty is immediately adopted by 15/16 states, with Schleswig-Holstein as the only holdout. In January, the state passes their own Gambling Act rather than joining the Interstate Treaty and began licensing 23 online casinos and 25 online sports betting sites.
Frequently Asked Questions
What happens if I’m caught using a betting site in a German region without legalized online gambling?
Nothing. For one, the European Commission may still challenge the legalities of Germany’s current online gambling laws. The only state in the country with legal casino websites on the internet is Schleswig-Holstein. Over 3.8 billion euro are wagered in online casinos annually, both licensed and unlicensed, so clearly large swathes of the population are using these sites without any consequences.
What are the risks involved with using a gambling website outside of Germany’s borders?
If you’re accessing licensed EU betting sites, there is very little risk legally or of being scammed out of your money. More and more German bettors are turning to unlicensed offshore operators in response to the regulatory gridlock holding up the Interstate Treaty and the country’s increasingly strict gaming laws. Technically, using an unregulated foreign site is not permitted, but nobody is paying attention to or prosecuting individual gamblers.
Does Germany tax winnings from gambling?
No, individuals’ winnings are not taxed. Gaming operators, however, are responsible for a 19% VAT tax applied to gross revenues.
Who licenses the regulated and legal online betting sites in Germany?
At the moment, that must be done at the state level, with each of the 16 regions having their own regulatory body and laws. This is intended to change once all of the areas are finally in agreement concerning how to issue national licenses via the Interstate Treaty. In the meantime, some states are allowing German gambling site operators from other EU jurisdictions to provide access to betting.
Yes, if you’re in the Schleswig-Holstein region. The German state has consistently been at the forefront of the fight for greater gaming rights and was recently approved to let foreign gambling sites provide their services within their borders until the Interstate Treaty licensing rules are finally agreed upon and passed at the federal level.