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Deyan Dimitrov December 19, 2023 2 min read
German Stakeholders Criticize Proposed Gambling Law Changes
A new initiative aims to decriminalize unregulated gambling, causing significant concerns as the country remains beset by offshore operators
Burkhard Blienert, the German federal government’s addiction commissioner, has vehemently criticized the intended relaxation of criminal law proposed by Federal Justice Minister Marco Buschmann. Other industry stakeholders share Blienert’s concerns, noting that such a change would not achieve meaningful results and could even hurt consumer protection efforts.
Black Market Operators Remain at Large
A recent Spiegel report revealed that Blienert sent an official letter addressed to the FDP minister, emphasizing that eliminating this contentious paragraph could significantly heighten Germany’s vulnerability to organized crime, especially given the surge in illegal gambling activities witnessed during the pandemic. With this change, gambling events would only qualify as administrative offenses, severely limiting the government’s options.
According to Blienert, this alteration could severely impede authorities’ ability to detect unauthorized gambling and overwhelm regulatory bodies with excessive controls. To counteract this, Blienert advocates for a more specific and expanded paragraph that also encompasses foreign operators rather than its complete removal. Such a targeted change would answer several long-standing industry concerns and divert players back to the regulated sector.
Despite Germany’s gambling regulator, GGL, resorting to payment and IP-blocking measures, unregulated online operators continue to operate with minimal obstruction. A recent study revealed that nearly 50% of online gambling activity in Germany still occurred on unlicensed platforms, which had minimal player protections and no safeguards against problem gambling.
The Regulated Segment Grows Increasingly Frustrated
In a baffling move, German authorities have started targeting players who engage with unregulated gambling websites. Investigations initiate when banks notice unusual financial activities related to offshore operators. However, many players are unaware of the legal implications, resulting in pending investigations with thousands of cases awaiting resolution.
Meanwhile, black market operators continue to thrive more or less unchecked, stifling the regulated segment, which must adhere to strict advertising and player protection policies. Schopf noted that setting up a black-market gambling operation required considerable criminal intent backed by commercial, profit-driven interests, arguing against legislative changes that would hinder their persecution.
The debate surrounding the proposed amendments continues to draw attention, with concerns lingering about the potential repercussions and the persistence of Germany’s gambling black market. As licensed operators become increasingly disillusioned with the government’s policies, the resulting instability threatens to undermine the entire sector. Unfortunately, it is ordinary consumers who will bear the consequences.