Online gambling law and regulation in Germany

Is online gambling permitted?It depends on the type of gambling.
Licence available for…BettingYes1
SportsYes2
Card GamesYes3
CasinoYes4
LotteryNo (monopoly)
Footnotes

1. Betting is only permitted on horse racing and sports.

2. Although already having been generally legal under the former regulation, with the new Interstate Treaty on Gambling (GlüStV) providers of sports betting can now apply for a broader spectrum of online sports betting licences: The GlüStV now expressly permits betting on single events during a game or a combination of such events. The Regional Council of Darmstadt is managing the licence application process. 

3. Certain forms of online poker are allowed. Other forms of online card games are illegal. With the new GlüStV, licences for online poker are now available nationwide. In 2014 the Federal Administrative Court (BVerwG 8 C 26/12) considered poker as a form of gambling (and not a game of skill) provided the participants are playing for money.  Accordingly, online poker is now considered as a type of gambling in the new GlüStV. The gambling authority of Saxony-Anhalt is responsible for online poker and is managing the licence application process.

4. Only virtual slot games are allowed for which licences are available and can be applied for from the gambling authority of Saxony-Anhalt. There is no national licensing process for online casinos with each State deciding whether to grant licences to private operators or to have a state-owned or licensed monopoly.

Notes

Although online gambling is subject to regulation at an individual State level, the GlüStV was enacted to ensure unified rules throughout the 16 German states. Under the old gambling law, online gambling was generally only permitted in Schleswig-Holstein. Between September 2020 and 30 June 2021 there was a transitional phase during which online gambling offers that would be legal under the new GlüStV were tolerated in all States (although they were technically still illegal) provided operators complied with transitional rules. 

The new GlüStV became effective on 1 July 2021. Now licences are available not only for online horserace betting and sports betting but also for virtual slot machines and online poker. Licences for other gambling products cannot currently be obtained.

The first licence will usually be granted for a period of 5 years, with renewals for periods of 7 years. For valid reasons the competent authority may shorten these periods.  Please note that in order to obtain a licence, providers of online gambling  must comply with a number of requirements stated in the GlüStV in order to protect the players from the dangers of gambling (e.g., a monthly deposit limit of EUR 1,000) 

The online sports betting licences that were granted by the Regional Council of Darmstadt under the previous GlüStV will remain valid until 31 December 2022. From 1 January 2023 operators will require a new licence under the GlüStV 2021. 

Licences for online casino games issued by Schleswig-Holstein for the territory of Schleswig-Holstein under the old Gambling Act continue to be valid at the latest until 31 December 2024, provided the operator has applied for a licence under the GlüStV by 1 July 2022.

With the GlüStV now certain types of online casino games are permitted. However, the GlüStV does not stipulate the direct possibility to apply for a license for online casino games. Instead, the GlüStV 2021 provides the States with the possibility to offer online casino games within their territory by a state-owned operator or to run a tender for licences to be granted to  private gambling providers. States that have issued more than one licence for land-based casinos can grant an equal number of licences for online casinos to private operators. Similar to the other types of licences for online gambling, licences for online casinos may only be granted for a limited period.

Portrait of Sebastian Cording
Dr. Sebastian Cording
Partner
Hamburg
Portrait of Nantje Johnston
Dr. Nantje Johnston, LL.M. (LSE)
Principal Counsel
Hamburg
Dr. Benjamin Schirmer