A new wave of turmoil has been set off in Germany’s online gambling space, currently in the middle of a reorganization process, after news emerged this week that the Hamburg Ministry of the Interior and Sport has filed complaints against three online gambling operators, seeking their prosecution.
The Ministry brought the case with the Hamburg Public Prosecutor. As reported by local news outlets, the legal challenge was centered around the online casino operations of the three gambling operators named in the complaint.
The Ministry refused to confirm the three companies, but local media reported that GVC Holdings’ bwin brand, Germany’s Tipico, and Malta-licensed Bet3000 are being targeted by Hamburg legislators for illegally offering online casino products to local gamblers.
Earlier this year, the heads of Germany’s 16 states agreed on a permanent online gambling framework that is set to take effect on July 1, 2021 and to permit licensed online casino and poker activities.
However, under the temporary regulations outlined in the Third State Treaty on Gambling, which came into effect early this year, the Darmstadt Regional Council was tasked with awarding online sports betting licenses only to interested domestic and international operators.
Last year, the Council ordered Germany-facing online casino/poker operators to quit the market in preparation for the implementation of the Third State Treaty on Gambling.
While some companies complied with the order, others argued that it violated EU laws and regulations for the movement of services and continued to service German players relying on their licenses from the state of Schleswig-Holstein, which is the only place in the country that permits online casino gambling.
Operators Protest Illegal Gambling Claims
Each of the three operators that were reportedly named in the Hamburg Interior Ministry’s complaint dismissed the notion that they have been conducting illegal online casino activities across Germany.
In a statement to gambling news outlet iGaming Business, GVC said that the legal challenge had “no merit or legal standing” and that its bwin brand operates legally in Germany under European laws and regulations. The major gambling operator also noted that it expects the filing to “be dismissed after a standard review process.”
Tipico did not confirm that it had a legal complaint brought against it but pointed out that it believes the online casino prohibition outlined in the Third State Treaty on Gambling violated EU law.
Each of the three gambling operators have been conducting iGaming activities in the German market for years.
News about the filing against them emerge shortly after Renatus Zilles, Chairman of the German Association for Telecommunications and Media (Deutscher Verband für Telekommunikation und Medien, DVTM), announced that the Darmstadt Administrative Court has suspended a proceeding involving an unnamed online gambling operator and the Darmstadt Regional Council at the mutual request of the two parties.
The case was brought by the gambling company as it sought to challenge a prohibition order issued by the Council. The Council had sanctioned the company for providing online casino-style gaming across Germany.
The Council will now take “no enforcement measures” against the gambling operator during the period of suspension.
The Darmstadt Administrative Court suspending the case indicates the possible end of German regulators’ efforts to penalize online casino operators and force them out of the market until mid-2021 when casino-style gambling will be permitted in Germany.