Schleswig-Holstein to Liberalize the Online Gaming Market

Recently, Schleswig-Holstein, a state in Germany, liberalized the online gaming market in the region. Private gaming site operators are hopeful that this move will motivate other states in Germany to do the same. According to the new law that was passed regarding online gaming, any commercial game site operator can apply for licenses in the state.

Web-based betting will be enabled legally from March 2012. The parties responsible for passing the law are the Free Democrats (free-market) from Kiel’s state assembly and Christian Democrats (conservative). A majority from both parties voted in favour of the legalization of online gaming.

Experimental Lift on Ban for Seven Sites

With this move, Schleswig-Holstein has become the first of sixteen regions to allow gambling on the internet in Germany. Till recently, there was a ban on private providers. All the regions have been keen on loosening this. Except Schleswig-Holstein, all other regions want to grant seven sports betting franchises (online) an experimental lift of the ban. This however, will last only for five years and will begin from January.

Two of the top site operators – Bwin.party and Betfair – are happy with this move. The sites are known for their offering of casino games like online roulette and betting opportunities. A member of Betfair’s German operations team stated that this decision will benefit customers. In addition, it will also be advantageous for sports clubs and state governments too.

Schleswig-Holstein Recognizes Importance of Internet Gambling

A leader of the Christian Democrats in Schleswig-Holstein mentioned that the state was the first to have identified and understood the key role that the internet plays in the gaming industry. The law that the Christian Democrats have helped pass, has been tagged by him as the most advanced law regarding betting in Europe. The law could help generate about €60 million annually in tax revenue.

All 16 states in Germany are responsible for the formation of rules on casinos and online betting. Last year the European Court of Justice – the highest court in Europe – stated that the traditional control that the regions were enforcing on gambling was disregarding the EU law.

Unanimous View on Retaining Local Lottery Systems

All states were unanimous on their view on wanting to retain the local lottery systems. According to them, this would help control gambling addiction. However, they were divided on the extent to which the online gaming market should be liberalized to accommodate sports betting and casino gaming.

Most states then drafted a limited reform that would permit just a few online providers to operate their sites for those in the country. In the draft, they laid special emphasis that this permission would only be for a short period – a move the the European Union has criticized. Nevertheless, Schleswig-Holstein’s draft indicated that it was keen on opening the market to all operators.

Currently, operators like Betfair are hopeful that they will be able to offer online betting via Schleswig-Holstein to users in Germany. According to state officials, such moves are likely to be contested legally. Uncertainties like this – pertaining to the applicability of the law – have led the region to schedule the enactment of the law for March, by which time they are likely to be cleared.

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