The European Court of Justice has ruled that German laws restricting gaming are in breach of European Union law. The approach of the German state governments, which limits gaming to state-appointed monopolies but encourages the general expansion of gambling, was found to be inconsistent.
In a report on the decision, German gaming law specialists Hambach & Hambach wrote, “The ECJ states, in unusually clear words, that there is no compliance with Union law if—as is the case in Germany—the following line of argumentation is used to justify the regulations: A state which pursues the objective of preventing incentives to squander on gambling and of combating gambling addiction, but fails to pursue this objective in a consistent and systematic manner, acts in violation of Union law.”
Two important criteria cited by the report are that Germany allows commercial operators to offer betting on horse racing and gaming machines, and that a policy of expansion is under way in the area of casinos and gaming machines in arcades and non-gaming venues, such as restaurants and bars.
The court stated, “The German rules on sporting bets constitute a restriction on the freedom to provide services and the freedom of establishment. The public monopoly of the organization of sporting bets and lotteries in Germany does not pursue the objective of combating the dangers of gambling in a consistent and systematic manner.”
Sigrid Ligne, the secretary general of industry lobbyist group European Gaming and Betting Association, said in a statement, “This is a landmark ruling which will have a decisive impact on the much-needed reform in Germany.”
The European Lotteries Association, which represents the national lotteries of 40 countries, disagreed with the EGBA interpretation of the ruling, reports Reuters. Friedrich Stickler, deputy general director of Austrian Lotteries and president of the association, said, “Contrary to how proponents of a liberalization would like to interpret these rulings, the court today did by no means advocate a liberalization of gambling. On the contrary, the court reminded Germany that it has to control more strictly the offer of dangerous forms of gambling such as casino games and gaming machines. The court also pointed again to the higher risks associated with internet gambling.”