Live casino games streamed from Schleswig-Holstein, Germany

Smart Live Gaming and German casino group Spielbank SH GmbH, who own and operate five bricks and mortar casinos in the German state of Schleswig-Holstein have partnered up with a view to live-streaming the action from within one or more of these casinos and making it available for play online.

That’s the plan anyway.

And it’s a ripper… certainly from a pure player product perspective. But I can’t even begin to imagine the regulatory hurdles these guys are going to have to jump through before this gets off the ground because Germany’s online gambling law is a very confusing and constantly changing beast. This bears a little explanation.

Germany’s Interstate Treaty on Gambling and the Schleswig-Holstein Gambling Act

Hard to know where to start with this it’s so arse-about. But here goes.

Back in 2008 Germany sought to unify gambling laws country-wide with an Interstate Treaty on Gambling (“the Treaty”).  It was largely protectionist in nature and was ruled as such by the European Court of Justice in 2010 so lawmakers went back to the drawing board and came up with an amended Treaty in 2012 which took a (marginally) more liberal approach to online gambling. Online casino games and online poker are still verboten. Online sports betting is allowed but with the number of available licenses capped at 20 and a steep 5% turnover tax applying.

The 2012 Treaty is still inconsistent with EU law according to the European Commission who have given Germany 2 years to amend the law…or else.  Of course given the EC are also having to ask Germany for 100 billion euros every second month to bail out fellow EU members, the ‘or else’ probably doesn’t strike fear into the hearts of German politicians.

In June this year the 13th of the 15 adopting states ratified the Treaty thereby allowing the law to take effect from July 1st.

Any geography buffs reading this will be thinking hang on, there are 16 German states (or Lander) not 15.

And they would be correct.

One state – Schleswig-Holstein – decided that the Treaty wasn’t for them and that they’d go it alone with their own net gamblings laws.

The Schleswig-Holstein Gambling Act came into effect on January 2012 and it takes a very liberal approach to online gambling, allowing licenses for online sports betting, casino and poker games. It has been given the thumbs up by the EC and a number of foreign firms have already secured sports betting licenses for a term of six years…Betfair, bet365 and Bwin.Party among them. They’ll be able to offer their services to residents of Schleswig-Holstein. As for residents of the other 16 states there are legal uncertainties because of the existence of the Treaty. Similar uncertainties would apply to online casino games, although as at 12 June no online casino or poker licenses had been yet been awarded.

If the above isn’t convoluted enough, it gets worse.

Since the Act came into effect, a new government has taken office in Schleswig-Holstein and they aren’t big supporters of the law. This is their policy statement on the matter…

The state government’s goals are coherent national gambling regulations and Schleswig-Holstein’s accession to the Interstate Treaty on Gambling. Accordingly, the state government will investigate how Schleswig-Holstein’s Gambling Act can be repealed without liability for compensation and how the law can be amended to stop the issuing of licenses.”

This doesn’t bode well for Betfair, bet365 and Bwin.Party’s sports betting licenses.  It definitely doesn’t bode well for the applicants waiting to receive a casino or poker license!

As for what all this means for Smart Live and Spielbank’s plans? I’m so confused right now that I’m really not sure.

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