Hamburg takes legal action against betting brands

Hamburg has long been against the tolerant approach adopted in states such as Hesse.
Hamburg has long been against the tolerant approach adopted in states such as Hesse.

Hamburg has launched legal action against three companies it accuses of operating illegal online casinos as German states clash over iGaming.

Germany.- Glaring differences are emerging between different German states’ approaches to online gambling as the country waits to launch its regulated market next year.

Barely a day after the Regional Council of Darmstadt said it would no longer take enforcement action against online gaming sites, the Hamburg Interior Authority has filed criminal complaints against Tipico, GVC’s bwin and Bet3000.

All three have operated in Germany for several years.

The Hamburg Interior Authority said it had “filed a complaint against illegal providers of sports betting and online casinos.”

It said criminal prosecution was required because the companies had already been prohibited from offering online casinos and had not respected the decision.

Hamburg’s public prosecutor has confirmed that she is reviewing reports against the three companies.

The Hamburg authorities are believed to have submitted adverts used by the operators as evidence to bring a criminal case. 

Tipico is an official partner of the German Football League and FC Bayern Munich, while the other major Munich club, TSV 1860, has a deal with Bet3000 and bwin has a sponsorship deal with Borussia Dortmund.

Bundesliga clubs and the DFB-Poka have always emphasised that such deals aim to advertise only the company’s sports betting offers and not online casinos, but the authorities in Hamburg argue that the companies also offer illegal casino games.

Bwin has claimed Germany’s ban on online casinos does not apply to its offering, which is licensed in Gibraltar, while Tipico, which is licensed in Malta, has argued that the Germany ban violates European law.

The lawsuit mounted against the three operators could fuel an ongoing dispute between Germany’s federal states who have markedly different attitudes towards how to deal with online gambling until Germany’s new State Treaty on Gaming comes into force next year. 

Some states are proposing tolerance of unlicensed operators, arguing that they could be licensed as soon as next year, while others, such as Hamburg, want to continue taking enforcement action against operators and payment services providers.

Germany’s Gaming Advisory Board has sided with the latter. The federal government’s drug commissioner Daniela Ludwig told the northern Germany television channel NDR that debate was “superfluous” and that toleration harmed measures on addiction prevention and protection of minors. 

She said: “Companies that have been violating applicable law for years should not be rewarded with tolerance.”

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