An eleventh-hour policy document on online gambling in Germany, which defines how some existing online slots and poker will be tolerated from unlicensed operators ahead of a new regulatory system set to come into effect next year, has resulted in a mad scramble among poker sites to get their products in line with some rather unique rules.
The German federal states agreed to a tolerance policy on September 10, but it was not until September 30 that guidelines were made public. With rules coming into effect this Thursday, October 15, sites were given surprisingly little time to bring operations in-line.
The so-called “toleration” policy, which allows a subset of online gambling to continue for the next nine months, is the latest twist in a years-long effort by Germany’s 16 Bundesländer to adopt a cohesive nationwide policy on online gambling.
The Interstate Treaty 2021, the country’s fourth attempt at such a framework, is now expected to come into force in July next year. It will allow for unlimited licenses to be issued to slots and poker. Sports betting licenses are already being issued.
Casino games, bizarrely, have been left to individual states to regulate, so in the interim these services will be withdrawn. Even so, it has been broadly welcomed by operators.
“The introduction of the Interstate Treaty and Tolerance Policy brings long-awaited clarity to the future of online gaming regulation in Germany,” said Shay Segev, CEO of GVC, in a statement earlier this month. As the parent company of bwin, Ladbrokes and Sportingbet, the multinational company has a significant presence in the German market.
“This development is to be welcomed, as is the greater certainty and detail it provides on operating under the new licensing regime,” he went on to say. “The establishment of a level playing field for responsible, licensed operators is ultimately good for German consumers, the Group and the industry as a whole.”
For most online poker operators interested in licensing, it means launching a separate “dot-de” client which will impose specific restrictions and responsible gaming measures as outlined in the policy.
Many of these are heavy handed—including a restriction on simultaneous tables, a monthly deposit limit, and a “panic button” at all tables—but there is no suggestion in the current rules that operators must segregate German players from the rest of the player pool.
In that way, it will operate like the poker clients of the UK, Sweden and Denmark, among others—customized apps that adhere to local rules, with possible restrictions on games offered and special responsible gaming messages and limits added, but ultimately providing access to the global player pool.