Germany’s new gambling law creates huge uncertainty

Germany's new gambling law has been in a transitional phase since 2012 and is set to come into full force next year. [Shutterstock]

Germany’s gaming sector is upheaval as sharper regulations threaten the very existence of many arcade businesses. EURACTIV Germany reports.

Over the next year, many gaming halls and casinos in Germany will risk losing their licences. There has long been legislative uncertainty in the gaming market, but in 2017 stricter rules are going to come into force, when the transitional period of a law enacted in 2012 finally expires.

According to the European Court of Justice the previous regulations did not comply with EU law, necessitating the writing of new legislation. “Our entrepreneurs have not had the chance to adapt to the situation, because they are largely uncertain whether they are going to even be able to continue running their operations or employing people,” said Georg Stecker, the German gaming industry board’s spokesperson.

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However, Berlin urban development expert Daniel Buchholz (SPD) welcomed the change: “Finally, most of the gambling halls in Berlin and Spandau will have to close! Gambling addiction destroys people and communities. Thanks to strict gaming hall rules in Germany we have been able to stop a new flood of casinos.”

In Berlin, since 31 July, licences have only been granted to new operators if their premises are at least 500 metres away from a similar establishment.

Based on similar rules, thousands of premises around Germany may face closure. For Stecker, this is an alarming development, as it could penalise operators who, until recently, were not in breach of any regulations.

The new law is intended to, first and foremost, counter gambling addiction. Fruit machines, in particular, are associated with addiction, Marlene Mortler, the federal government’s advisor on drugs, told the Neue Osnabrücker newspaper. “18-20 year-olds play more today than a few years ago,” said Mortler. “In order to effectively protect players, we have to avoid legal vacuums and close legal loopholes as quickly as possible,” he added.

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Stecker also called for effective protection for those susceptible to addiction, including better staff training and better biometric, low-threshold systems that can better recognise the signs of addiction.

However, it is feared that players will just seek out a fix from providers that are willing to flout the laws and where rules cannot be enforced as effectively, particularly on the internet.

Moreover, it still hasn’t been established whether this new set of laws is compatible with EU law, the very problem that first led Germany to rethink the situation. It is particularly uncertain whether the minimum distance between gambling outlets is going to comply with Brussels’ regulations.

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