The new German gambling regulation, the State Treaty on Gambling 2021 (Glücksspielstaatsvertrag 2021 = GlüStV 2021), will bring substantial changes to the German gambling regulation. There will be new licensing options for online poker, virtual slots and online casino (table) games and current licensing options – e.g. for sports betting and for lotteries – will be extended. But the licences will also be subject to very detailed licensing restrictions and the enforcement against illegal gambling will be strengthened.

The German states have adopted a transitional regime that allows for a transition from unlicensed to licensed sports betting, virtual slots and online poker operation under the GlüStV 2021.

This transitional regime will factually tolerate sports betting, online poker and virtual slots without a German licence. The transitional requirements for sports betting are less strict than those for virtual slots and online poker:

  • The prerequisite for the toleration of virtual slots and online poker is that the operators comply with the technically feasible player protection requirements of the GlüStV 2021. Gambling services that do not comply with this transitional regime (e.g. online casino table games such as Roulette or Black Jack) need to be stopped. The – unreasonably short – deadline to comply is 15 October 2020.
  • Operators who offer only sports betting (and no poker, virtual slots or online casino games) need to have applied for a German sports betting licence in the current licensing procedure even if issuing the licences is currently stopped by a court decision. But compliance with further requirements is expected only after the licence has been issued.

In addition to the transitional regime, the German gambling authorities have published guidelines that demonstrate which GlüStV 2021 requirements are deemed to be “technically feasible” at the moment and which need to be complied with by the virtual slots and online poker operators by 15 October 2020. The general requirements include:

  • A registered office in the EU or EEA,
  • A German website with necessary information in German,
  • Exclusion of minors (under the age of 18) by means of identification and authentication based on the German youth protection requirements including verification of the player’s details,
  • A (website) domain-related monthly deposit limit of 1000 EUR per player,
  • A “panic button” that leads to a 24 hour exclusion,
  • No advertising for unlicensed gambling including virtual slots and online poker.

There are also additional special requirements for virtual slots and online casino:

  • Virtual slots may not be referred to as “casino” or “casino games” and auto-play is prohibited. A grace period is granted for the adoption of further requirements for virtual slots: The operators need to make sure that a virtual slots game lasts at least for 5 seconds and the stake is limited to 1 EUR per game by 15 December 2020.
  • In online poker, the assignment of players to a virtual table must be random and only poker variants without a banker are allowed.

The agreement on the transitional regime mentions that the gambling authorities will take action against operators that do not comply with the transitional regime requirements after 15 October 2020. Non-compliance can not only lead to prohibition orders and payment blocking but also to the allegation of being “unreliable” which would mean that a licence could be denied in a future licensing procedure.

The new licensing procedures will not start before 1 July 20201. Although the notification of the GlüStV 2021 has already been completed, the (now slightly amended) draft of the new law still needs to be signed by the heads of the federal states. The signature should take place at their next meeting from 28 to 30 October 2020. Afterwards the GlüStV 2021 needs to be ratified by at least 13 of the 16 German states by 30 April 2021 in order to enter into force on 1 July 2021.

Update: The transitional regime and corresponding guidelines have been published in the German Federal Gazette (Bundesanzeiger) on 15 October 2020.