As a federal state, Germany has some of the most muddled gambling laws of any European country. For that reason alone, it is certainly worth diving into this bag of snakes and trying to lay them out straight for any German player who wishes to gamble online at top casino sites. That is precisely what we will do now. So, what is the current situation for players in Germany?
Is Online Gambling Legal in Germany?
Before we can really look at the current situation for online gambling in Germany, we need a little history lesson and some background. Gambling “was” regulated on a state level in the country, owing to its federal system. However, when in 2008 intrastate treaties all but made online gambling illegal, a handful of states refused to play ball. Schleswig-Holstein is arguably the most famous example. They legalised online gaming, and the fact that they licensed their own casinos meant that, in theory, German players in other states could partake in games at those licensed casinos. However, they eventually changed their minds. In 2012, the Schleswig-Holstein gave in and signed the deal, but they did give any operators which currently had permits the full six years to see out their licenses. Those licenses, therefore, expired in 2018.
Schleswig-Holstein is now a member of the treaty, too, all online gambling is illegal in Germany, save for a few token online lotteries and sportsbooks which are deemed legal and have exemptions from the intrastate treaties. Are you with us so far? Things are about to get even more complicated.
Ordinarily, Germany would simply prevent its players from accessing online casinos, since they are now banned in all the German states. However, they can’t. The European Union (EU) has stated explicitly that Germany cannot penalise offshore (foreign) operators of casino sites, as they have offered them no chance to acquire a gambling license legally in the country – as you recall, Germany has officially made all online casino gambling illegal, so there is no industry, as such. Nor can the nation penalise its players for joining those offshore casino sites.
After the smoke clears, the result is that German players can gamble online, but only at offshore casinos and neither they nor those casinos can be punished by the country.
German Online Casinos
This should be relatively simple to explain. There are a few sportsbooks which operate in Germany and a handful of online lottery websites, but there are no online casinos. Germany does not hand out licenses for online casinos, so there is no German industry in this regard.
As mentioned, though, players are liberty to play at foreign casino sites, albeit doing so illegally.
Offshore Casino Sites for German Players
German players must play at offshore online casinos if they wish to gamble online. They would be doing so illegally. However, that might sound harsh, but there really is no harm in it. As mentioned, the country does not prosecute its players for choosing to play at offshore casinos. Since offshore casinos themselves are not prosecuted either (due to complex EU laws regarding fair play and open markets), most major casinos are more than happy to offer their services to German players. As such, when you hear the term “German online casinos”, we are almost always talking about international and foreign casino sites.
These offshore German casinos will always offer gameplay in German, and since many utilise the euro currency anyway, there are no complications for players in that regard. Several German banks have tried to squeeze the life out of the sector by refusing deposits at casino sites, but many have since relented. Banking options such as Sofort have proven immensely popular with German players.
A handful of German software providers often pop up at these “German casinos”, too, including Merkur Gaming and Bally Wulff. Novomatic (an Austrian provider) is also widely known to cater to German players at such sites.
Is Anything Likely to Change in the Future?
Given the unique nature of the non-existent gambling industry in the country, this is a tough question to answer. If Germany did regulate its gambling industry and hand out licenses, then they could ensure that only a handful of national sites could operate in the country, and thus be able to prosecute any illegal, unlicensed sites. However, this is the situation they previously found themselves in with Schleswig-Holstein, and the other states didn’t like it. Therefore, they are unlikely to return to this system.
Given that EU law prevents Germany from prosecuting offshore casinos, the only thing they can do is tell German ISPs (internet service providers) block access to them. This would be an extreme move in a country which prides itself on having an open internet. Germans would probably use VPNs (virtual private networks) to get around such blocks anyway.
The only other possibility would be to fully open their gambling industry to all, which is something else Germany won’t do as most states don’t approve of betting online. As a result, there doesn’t appear to be any changes forthcoming, so German players can relax and play as they see fit at offshore sites for the time being.
Top German Casino Sites
Offshore casinos are a German player’s only option. Given that, it is best to play at a specific type of casino domain. Players will almost certainly want to play at a well-licensed site, one which carries lots of games (mainly from German providers), and a casino which caters to them in their language. Since they can’t be prosecuted, there are more than a few sites which have sprung up that fit the bill.