Gambling in Germany

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Gambling in Germany

There are many states where the status of gambling is not determined by the government. Germany is one of the most well-loved countries in Europe, and it’s no wonder many players would like to spend some time there.

Every year major poker events are held in big German cities, but the status of the gambling industry is still hindered quite a bit throughout most of the country. This is another reason to explore the issue in detail, so you’ll know more about it the next time you decide to visit Germany!

Legal Background

Germany Parlament Building ReichstagBefore scrutinizing the legal framework of gambling in Germany, you should know that this country is a federal state. For a long time, local states had a right to regulate gambling on their territories. However, things got different over time. The supreme authorities on the federal level decided to take responsibility for monitoring and controlling gambling. This is why in between 2008 and 2012, there was a federal ban on gambling throughout the country. Only the State of Schleswig Holstein reserved its rights to legalize gambling.

This was made by implementing the Interstate Treaty on Gambling in 2008, which banned all forms of online gambling. The legal act went as far as forbidding online poker games. The Treaty obliged banks and internet providers to stop any kind of cooperation with online gambling providers. Harsh penalties were proposed for those violating the law. However, there are no known cases fines being imposed on any company or individual.

The intent of the 2008 edition of the Interstate Treaty was to minimize Internet fraud and various criminal actions. Nevertheless, in 2012, the EU authorities pressed the state to loosen its grip on online gambling providers; and as a result, a new edition of the Treaty came in force. The new legal act allowed sports betting and lotteries, but still prohibited other kinds of gambling.

The only oasis of freedom was left in Schleswig-Holstein, which reserved its right to grant licenses for gambling providers. By the beginning of 2013, this state had issued more than 50 licenses for internet gambling providers. These licenses were valid for 6 years, and the casinos were obliged to pay 20% gross revenue tax.

One of the first legal online casinos accepting real cash and credit cards was launched in 2013, under the Schleswig-Holstein license. The same year, this state joined the Treaty recognizing the general federal rules for the regulation of online and live casinos.

Those operators who received these licenses were allowed to continue their activities. However, their updates could be conducted under the new rules of the Treaty.

How Does It Look Like Today?

Land-Based Casino in Germany BeautifulThe most interesting fact about the gambling industry in Germany today is that its gross revenue in 2018 was as much as €14.2bn. This is a lot of money for a state with such tough regulations. The big share of the income comes from brick and mortar casinos, slot machines and lotteries (€10bn). Other €3bn are generated by the legal online market with its progressive jackpots, slot games, sports bets, and others.

Nevertheless, the illegal market is much bigger! The estimated value is believed to be somewhere in between €4bn to €22bn. This is the evidence of how much money in taxes is lost both by the local and federal governments. In the majority of cases, it would be much easier to legalize gambling than to ban it in the majority of cases.

What is more, it’s not very appropriate to use the term “illegal gambling” when it comes to online casinos. The lack of online casino regulation forces players from Germany to enjoy what foreign casinos have to offer. Such gambling activities are not prosecuted, and people can deposit and withdraw their money at these websites, which certainly do accept German citizens.

What Do German Players Like?

Germany is a country with a population of 80 million people, where sports events of every kind and scale are regularly held. No wonder, governmental authorities could not miss an opportunity to regulate the sports betting sphere on the governmental level. Nowadays,  sports betting makes up 38% of the gambling sphere in Germany. Having one of the best football leagues in the world makes this kind of sport one of the most popular when it comes to wagering. Other preferred sports to place a bet are horse racing, tennis, ice hockey, basketball, handball.

Another true cash cow of the gambling industry is casino entertainment, which generally ends up with 34% of players’ money. Most of this comes from the brick-and-mortar casinos, regulated by the state laws and Ministries of the Interior of the respective states. There are more than 50 casinos spread all over Germany offering entertainment in every major city. As for the national online casino providers, there are not so many of them. Instead of using the local operators, there is the option of using foreign providers, without any problems.

Land-Based Casino in GermanyOne of the most successful industries in Germany is poker. According to statistics, it only takes 24% of gambling industry profits. For a long time, the legal status of live or online poker tournaments remained undetermined. According to one of the court decisions, live poker tournaments could only happen only if the stakes were not high, and all of the buy-in money would go to the maintenance of the event itself. This is one of the most contradictory rulings, as prize pools in such live tournaments are formed by the contributions made by players.

Despite any rules and court decisions, the poker industry is still prospering in Germany. There are more than 158 poker tables all over the country and 33 poker rooms. Major live tournaments like the World Poker Tour are frequently held on the premises of German land-based casinos. The German All Time Money List contains many household names in poker like Fedor Holz, Hossein Ensan, Rainer Kempe, etc. Most of them have several WSOP bracelets and influence the industry all over the globe. Such a large number of high rollers shows that players in Germany take poker very seriously, enjoying everything from Texas Hold’em to Omaha Hi-Lo.


Most of casino reviews state that there are some differences in German gambling culture, compared with other countries. Almost every gambling venue has a dress code, and there is no 24/7 working schedule. Most of them are not open till noon, and usually close at 3 a.m. Individuals under the legal age of 18 are not allowed to enter. Some of the venues may charge an entrance fee and ask for a debt guarantee note.

The live casino industry is struggling to bring in more customers. One of the main factors is that the majority of the venues are state run, and they can’t offer much to players. Smoking bans, lack of entertainment, and growing offers on the Internet make many people feel reluctant to play there. The choice between free spins, deposit bonuses on the Internet and the strict rules of the brick-and-mortar casinos is pretty obvious. Moreover, people would prefer a mobile casino, which is available on the go, to visiting posh establishments all dressed up with expensive clothing.

Top 3 Questions About Gambling in Germany

Before you visit Germany, please read this general information about gambling in this country. You’ll get the answers to the most frequently asked questions on the Internet.

  • Is gambling legal in Germany?

All the gambling activities are regulated by the Interstate Treaty on Gambling. Sports betting and lotteries are run by the government. Online casinos are banned, with the exception of those that have received licenses from Schleswig-Holstein. Also, there are no restrictions on using foreign websites.

  • Is poker legal in Germany?

Online poker is illegal in Germany; however, there are many live poker tournaments held on the territory of the country. According to legislation, all online poker forms are banned, but there is still the option of using foreign resources to play the game.

  • How old you have to be to gamble in Germany?

All live casinos prohibit entry to persons under the age of 18. The same age restriction is set for sports betting and lotteries. Some foreign online casinos may set a higher legal age for placing bets on their website.

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