European Union Effectively Removes Online Poker Hurdles in Germany

A ruling by the European Union earlier this month cleared away most of the doubt about the legality of online poker in Germany.

The Court of Justice for the European Union (CJEU) issued a ruling that effectively states that Germany’s law prohibiting online poker is illegal.

Specifically, the ruling targets Germany’s laws that address sports betting, but the CJEU would likely apply the same thinking and legal analysis to legal proceedings challenging the legality of online poker.

The legal opinion of Judge Szpunar, which states that the German courts cannot enforce the Treaty and that Germany must enact new laws for both online and live gambling, will likely be the CJEU’s final judgment on the matter.

Last October in preparation for the CJEU case, Judge Advocate General Szpunar issued an opinion in the “Ince” case stating that legislators were obligated to rewrite the gambling laws as they were in vilatioon of EU law.

“Further to a judgment of the Court from which it can be inferred that a national law is not compatible with EU law, all organs of a Member State concerned are under an obligation to remedy that situation,” explained the Advocate General.

“This is a victory for online gaming in Germany,” said Patrick Roth, representative for German casino games info-portal Automatenherz. “It vindicates the decision by many to remain in the market knowing that the law was illegal,” he continued.

How Online Gambling Laws Progressed in Germany

In September 2011, the German state of Schleswig-Holstein took the lead in the country with regards to online gambling and passed a law allowing online poker with no restrictions on the number of licensed operators that could be approved by the state. At the time, the move was deemed to be “the most modern European gambling law,” by industry observers.

However, just three months later, 15 of the 16 German states approved the German Interstate Treaty on Gambling which made online poker illegal under the law of those states. The Treaty also banned online casino games while allowing for a set number of online sports betting licenses to be issued.

Online gaming companies condemned the new Treaty thinking that it provided for a state monopoly that restricted their ability to operate in the German market which was estimated at the time to be worth €‎5 billion.

By 2013, politicians in Schleswig-Holstein had reversed course and voted to repeal its online gaming law and join in with the other 15 states by joining the Treaty. However, the German Federal Court had decided to punt the decision on the legality of the Treaty and the gambling framework up to the CJEU.