Four to six new licenses in the Germany state of Schleswig-Holstein (SH) will be issued by August, according to SH Interior Minister Andreas Breitner.
Land. Schleswig-Holstein, Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs License

Four to six new licenses in the Germany state of Schleswig-Holstein (SH) will be issued by August, according to SH Interior Minister Andreas Breitner.

In addition, the seven sports-betting licenses already issued in the state are not at risk of being repealed, he admitted.

Schleswig-Holstein issued its first licenses in May, just days before state elections. Later that month, four more licenses were given out. bwin.party, BetFair and Bet365 are among the lucky recipients who can now accept bets from SH residents.

The parties that make up the new ruling coalition were strongly opposed to the online gaming regulation pre-election and since coming to power stated that they were looking at the political feasibility of repealing the law and the legal ramifications for revoking licenses.

But in a backpedal this week, the Interior Minister admitted that there was no possibility of repealing the existing licenses and, in addition, it could not immediately halt the process of issuing new licenses.

The coalition pledged that it would attempt to repeal the legislation when parliament reconvenes in August. If successful, a moratorium would be put in place to prevent new licenses from being issued. Fully repealing the law would take a long legal process lasting at least two years, and a risk of legal action meant there was no chance of repealing existing licenses. The licenses can be expected to be in force for the full term of six years.

“There are currently 42 applications, and some of these are ready for a decision,” he said in an interview with SHZ.de this week. By the time there is any opportunity to repeal the law, “I expect another four to six licenses will have been issued,” said Breitner.

17 of these 42 applications are for casino and online poker, and PokerStars is thought to be one of the applicants. At least in theory, a poker site regulated in SH would be unsegregated—it could share tables from international player pools—and could accept action from all German citizens.

It seems the new coalition has successfully found a way to stick to its election promises—aggressively pursuing the repeal of the law—while reaping the benefits of safe, regulated online gaming in the state. It expects to raise €5m in 2012 both from the sale of new licenses and from the 20% flat tax on gross gaming revenue from licensed operators.

Meanwhile, the other 15 states are proceeding with their new Online Gambling Act, which was ratified last week despite not receiving approval from the EU.

Unlike the permissive law in SH, the federal act will only issue a restricted number of sports-betting licenses to local operators, and will permit no licenses for online poker. It is a reaffirmation of a previous law in Germany which expired earlier this year.

The law comes into effect on July 1. However, the status quo in Germany is not expected to change: Online poker has been a grey area for poker players for years and, given the lack of EU approval, most online poker operators are not expected to adhere to the new law.

Germany is thought to have one of the largest online gambling markets in Europe, and second only to Russia in online poker.

No poker operators have published an official position following the ratification of the anti-online poker treaty in Germany, and pokerfuse received no response for a request for comment from operators including PokerStars.