Though still in its infancy, the German online gambling market is one of the largest in Europe. Considering this, new regulations legalizing online gambling in Germany complemented an existing and substantial gambling market. Experts predict it to grow from €2.2 billion in 2019 to €3.3 billion in 2024.
Germany legalized online gambling, including lottery, casinos, and sports betting. The regulatory provisions are strict and precise and refer to stake and deposit limits, KYC compliance, and other player-protection requirements. The goal was to create a safe and regulated environment and prevent players from visiting offshore websites.
But is everything sunshine and roses, and do these regulations favor the players and operators? Our article will answer these questions and discuss the general legality of the German online gambling market.
Brief History of Gambling in Germany
Germany is a country with a rich gambling history dating back as far as the Middle Ages. Dice games, such as craps, were prevalent at first. Card games stepped on the gambling scene in the 14th century, establishing Ulm as the center of European card production. German society frowned upon gambling, but cities and villages organized gambling events for their benefit.
Although gambling was prohibited, Würzburg and Frankfurt am Main already had licensed houses towards the end of the 14th century. In the 18th and 19th centuries, certain games of chance were considered morally acceptable for the nobility, such as Pharaoh and Bassette.
However, gambling was considered a moral issue for the lower socioeconomic society strata, primarily because the government feared the masses would be unable to pay taxes if they participated in gambling activities. For that reason, games of chance were banned. But that didn’t stop people from creating new gambling games by simply altering the rules of existing ones.
In the 18th century (1720), the first casino opened in Bad Elm, and more were to follow. However, due to the gambling prohibition in France and England, the tables turned, and the Prussian law introduced restrictions on the casinos and forced their closure by the end of 1872. The strict policy lasted until 1938, when casinos resumed their operations.
The National Socialist Party lifted the ban on gambling, and Baden Baden was the only casino to receive a license during the Nazi regime. Lotteries and sports betting became increasingly popular during this period. However, that didn’t last long, and the casinos were closed again from 1944 to 1950.
The second half of the 20th century was marked by the rise of slot machines played at gambling banks, game halls, and restaurants. People also played card games like poker, skat, and doppelkopf. The number of land-based gambling establishments also increased, and by 2005, there were 81. This number declined during the following years, and there are currently around 50 casinos in the country, half operated by private and half by governmental providers.
Online Gambling in Germany
The German online gambling market has significantly transformed in the last decade. In 2012, Germany passed the first Interstate Treaty on Gambling to regulate online sports betting nationwide. However, the European Supreme Court rejected the treaty because it violated EU fair competition rules. The first Interstate Treaty did not go into effect, so no licenses were given to online operators. It was unclear whether online gambling was legal in Germany, but since the law wasn’t implemented, many considered it unregulated.
However, one state, Schleswig-Holstein, declined to ratify the original gambling treaty. As a result, it became the only state in Germany that offered legal online gambling. Moreover, it granted licenses to 25 online sportsbooks and 23 online casinos. Within a year, Schleswig-Holstein repealed its German online gambling law and joined the treaty. Still, all the licenses the state granted remained valid until 2018 or until the new Interstate Treaty came into effect. For this reason, the operators received transitional permits in 2020 that expired on June 30, 2021, a day before the new Interstate Treaty was passed.
The new German Interstate Treaty on Gambling (ISTG) was passed in 2020 and became effective on July 1, 2021, allowing private operators to enter the German market. Finally, German gaming law underwent a long-awaited (partial) reform because previous gambling regulations had ambiguity issues referring to online gambling, criminal allegations, and payment processing, which the new law should address.
Soon after the treaty was enacted, several vendors applied for and were granted licenses for the next five years.
Interestingly, each of the 16 federal states in Germany has some say over gambling regulation, so 16 agencies could have jurisdiction over the issue. However, the federal authorities have already appointed two licensing bodies — The Darmstadt Regional Council in Hesse and Saale in Saxony-Anhalt. The former is in charge of issuing sports betting licenses, while the latter provides permits for games such as slots and online poker.
However, these organizations will cease to exist by the end of 2022, and the new Joint Gambling Supervisory Authority in Halle will take over from January 1, 2023. This authority will handle gambling licenses, IP blocking, enforcement mechanisms, and barring payment service providers.
This new treaty also incorporates some provisions in a stricter way, such as how operators handle their taxing and advertising. Here are some requirements for casino vendors:
- All operators limit players’ monthly deposits to €1,000. This deposit limit applies across all online gambling platforms in Germany.
- Virtual slots allow a maximum stake of €1 per game.
- It is prohibited to run gambling ads between 6 a.m. and 9 p.m. on the radio and online.
- Live dealer games are no longer allowed.
- Each virtual slot round must last at least five seconds without autoplay.
- Operators must provide players with an explicit opt-out button that locks them out for 24 hours (cool down button).
- Each casino operator must have registered offices in the EU or EEA.
- The website must provide all necessary information about the operator in German.
- Players must create an account that can be used to play on different platforms offered by various service providers.
- Online casino operators may apply for a license to offer online poker games, sports betting, and slot machines.
- German regulation allows a bonus of no more than €100 per year.
However, online gambling is not governed in the way we are used to under this regulation. For instance, the legislation does not include casino games such as blackjack and roulette. Instead, the law allows users to play online computer-simulated versions of these popular casino games through real-life broadcasts.
Aside from those provisions, German gambling regulation also applies to other legal types of online real-money gambling. The amended law covers esports, lottery, and bingo.
A total of 71 online operators have submitted their applications for licenses since 2021, but only three have received permits to operate online slots. In June 2022, The Sachsen-Anhalt State Administration Office approved nine more licenses for online poker and virtual online slot machines without revealing which operators would receive them.
Offshore Online Casinos in Germany
The German Criminal Code prohibits gambling businesses from operating without a local license. Everyone doing so would violate the gambling law and be subject to criminal liability. However, this doesn’t apply to offshore online gambling platforms, so it’s no surprise German players often resort to foreign operators.
These companies are based outside Germany, so they are not subject to German law and can accept bets from anyone within the country. When dealing with foreign operators, it’s important to remember that German law does not protect your money. Thus, your best bet is to stick with licensed gambling sites from reputable jurisdictions like the UKGC, MGA, or the Isle of Man. In addition to the reputation of each website, it is equally important to determine whether it pays players and hosts fair games.
You can check out the casinos we recommend on this page, as they are all safe and licensed, and you won’t experience any issues regarding cashing out your payments. Moreover, they feature rich gaming portfolios and offer plenty of promotions for new and returning players.
How to Register at Online Casinos in Germany
German online casinos’ registration processes could not be simpler. To make the initial deposit, you must verify your identity. Once that’s done, you can claim your welcome bonus and start playing. In case you are unsure how to do it, here is a short step-by-step guide:
- Pick an online casino — Browse our list of the best offshore casinos, see what they offer, and choose the one that suits you.
- Set up an account — Visit the official casino website and click on the Join/Register/Sign Up option. Fill out the registration form with your personal information (name, date of birth, e-mail, phone number, and address). Then, create a username and set up a strong password.
- Make a deposit — Once you’ve registered and verified your account, go to the Cashier and select the Deposit option.
- Claim the welcome bonus — Take advantage of the welcome offer as soon as the funds become available.
- Choose a game — Check out the available gaming options, choose something you like, and start playing. Good luck!
It’s worth noting that the registration process will be completed after the operator confirms the details. There is a provision in the treaty that all operators in the country will have access to a shared database and can choose whether to approve a player’s registration.
After the UK, Germany is the second largest market in Europe for online gaming. Gambling regulation in Germany has had its ups and downs, just like in many other countries, and the government will still have a challenging time navigating online gambling. However, the market is evolving in the right direction and has already caught the eye of local operators like Tipico and international ones like bet365.
Yes. There are many ways in which you can gamble online legally in Germany. Online lotteries, horse betting, and sports betting are permitted within the country’s borders. However, as things stand, you must find an offshore operator to play online casino games or poker. Check out the list of reputable and popular ones we provided on this page.
Generally, all profits from online gambling are taxable. Any winnings from offshore sportsbooks, racebooks, casinos, or poker rooms must be reported and taxed. It is a common misconception among online gamblers that using offshore gaming sites will allow them to bypass the German government’s tax system. Taxes are levied at 19% on gross gaming revenue in virtual gambling establishments.
The majority of German-friendly offshore betting sites only accept USD and CAD payments. However, many of these operators offer currency conversion assistance, and you can contact their customer support for further information. Alternatively, you can always exchange your local currency for USD/CAD beforehand to avoid high provisions.
This is extremely unlikely. Although hundreds of thousands of German casino gamers and punters are visiting offshore sites constantly, no one has ever been fined or arrested for doing so.