Hamburg Takes Online Casino Legal Action

The German state of Hamburg is set to take action against gambling companies that have allegedly violated the ban on online gaming in Germany.

 

The Hamburg Ministry of the Interior and Sport has filed official complaints against three online gambling operators. The case now rests with the Hamburg Public Prosecutor, which will now have to make a decision on whether to pursue it.

 

The Ministry has not confirmed the names of companies concerned, but the local media has reported that GVC subsidiary bwin, along with Tipico and Bet3000 are the firms involved.

 

In a response to the filing, GVC dismissed the accusations, saying that they operated in Germany under European law. Tipico has not commented on the filing itself, but has reiterated its position that the ban on online casino gaming that was part of the third amended State Treaty on Gambling was in violation of European Union law. It also pointed out that German politicians, who approved the new Fourth State Treaty back in March, also subscribe to this view:

 

“We have always stressed that we welcome the agreement from the beginning of 2020 reached by the 16 federal states on the regulation of the growing German gaming market and hope that the open questions can now be resolved quickly.

 

All three of the providers have been active in the country for several years, having formed relationships with prominent German football teams. For example, Tipico is a partner of Bayern Munich, while bwin has a sponsorship deal with Borussia Dortmund. Malta-based Bet3000 also has a sponsorship arrangement with 1860 Munich.

 

The state of Hamburg has long been opposed to the opening up the German gambling market to permit private operators to provide services in the country. This has led to considerable tension. Earlier this week, the chair of German media association Deutscher Verband für Telekommunikation und Medien, Renatus Zilles, said that Hamburg, and a handful of other states were illegally hampering Germany’s online betting industry. Zilles emphasised that in his organisation’s view, the legal actions were making it easier for illegal operators to gain a foothold in the country.

 

The complicated legal position has led to considerable argument within Germany. The third State Treaty, which limited the online market to sports betting, was due to come into effect from January this year until 30 June 2021. But the associated licensing process has been halted due to a legal challenge by an Austrian bookmaker Vierklee. Meanwhile, other states have shifted their position in favour of allowing online casino betting ahead of the Fourth Treaty’s introduction.

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