New Online Poker Regulations in Germany

A new set of online poker regulations have substantially changed the online gambling scene in Germany in recent months. The German authorities greenlit the new rules on September 10, but the public announcement did not come before September 30. 

Even though the law was put into effect from October 15, the federal government has decided to allow a 9-month tolerance period, so that gamblers and operators can adapt themselves to the statute. This transitional period will last till July 2021. 

What Is Happening?

Glücksspielneuregulierungstaatsvertrag 2021 aka, the Interstate Gambling Treaty of 2021 is a cohesive effort to regulate online poker across all German states. Under the new law, there will be new licensing options for virtual slots, online poker, and online casinos. Existing license-holders will also have the opportunity to renew their licenses. 

The law takes a stricter stance against illegal online and physical gambling activities. It demands gamblers to provide more information to operators, redefines searching arrangements, and imposes stern deposit and table limits. 

The transition phase is very very important for gambling operators in the Western European country. Their activities will be closely monitored by the authority and only those will be able to apply for new licenses or renewals, who will abide by the new law. 

A joint supervising authority will be formed consisting of state-level gambling regulatory body officials. This committee will be responsible for granting and revoking gambling licenses in Germany. It would also ensure the proper implementation of the new law. 

What Does It Mean For German Poker Players?

The new online poker regulations in Germany saddles the players with the following restrictions

Universal Player Account

As a player, you will have to create a profile that will be applicable for online licensed online betting platforms in Germany. That means, instead of opening up accounts individually on each site, you will only open one account on any site, and you would be able to use that ID elsewhere. 

This saves you the trouble of signing up for different sites. However, the sign-up page will ask you for more credentials than before. The information you provide has to be authentic otherwise, you will be committing a felony. 

The operator will verify your info before approving your account. 

One Site At A Time

You cannot log in to multiple gambling sites together using your credentials. You have to log out from one site, to get access to another site. So, if you want to gamble simultaneously at multiple platforms using multiple devices, that won’t be possible anymore. 

Expenditure Cap

Per the Interstate Gambling Treaty of 2021, German gamblers will only be able to spend €1000 per month on internet gambling. The €1000 limit is the total monthly limit of a person. That means you can’t spend more than €1000 a month in total under the new law on online gambling. 

No More Than Four Tables

In multi-table tournaments, a player will be permitted to take part in four tables at the same time. It is the maximum number. You can’t play more than four tables at once. 

Random Seat Choice 

Previously, operators used to give you the option to select your seat on the table. The new online poker regulations eliminate that privilege. Now, you would have to sit where the operator asks you to sit. The seating arrangement will be arranged randomly.

These rule changes would have an obvious impact on the online poker culture in Germany. The idea of deposit caps is not entirely new since many operators used to have them. But, those spending restrictions had way more leeway compared to the new ones. 

The spending constraints were not eligible for special events. Not to mention that the deposit ceiling forced by operators was usually way above the €1000 mark. So, the new legislation would cut the spending power of German online poker players to a substantial degree. 

Seat selection and blind lobbies were also common offerings that gave the gamblers a better shot at making some money. Right now, players would have to make do without them. Without an amendment to the current law, this would be the reality for German online poker players. 

Truth be told, the online poker regulatory measures in Germany were never liberal. The new barriers of a thousand euro spending cap and rigorous table restrictions have made the situation even worse. The present climate is hostile for online poker professionals in Germany.

Therefore, we have seen many professional online poker players immigrating from Germany to other countries with more easy-going tax and gambling laws. If poker is your primary source of income, it would be difficult for you to make a living in Germany. 

Participating in a high-stake poker tournament from Germany would be not lawful. So, professionals have little choice but to leave their motherland. Even if you are not a professional, you would find it increasingly difficult to cope with all these restrictions as a recreational gambler. 

The detailed identity verification seems to be a welcoming addition, though. Yes, it might feel bothersome to fill out all those forms and provide your driving license, passport details, or utility bill copies. But, a comprehensive database would allow for better supervision and fraud safety. 

When it was announced that there would be a new federal law that specifies the do’s and don’ts of online gambling in Germany, the local online gambling community was quite optimistic about it. Up until then, online gambling was in somewhat of a legal limbo in the country. 

The lack of a legal infrastructure in regulating the game had made it a twilight zone. The Interstate Gambling Treaty of 2021 has fully legalized online poker in Germany, but the strict administering components of the law have wiped out the smiles from the faces of players. 

What Do The Operators Need To Do To Obtain License?

The obligations a betting operator has to meet to become eligible for a license would vary depending on the type of gambling. For an online poker license in Germany, a betting operator must fulfill the following benchmarks. 

Security Deposit

First and foremost, any operator applying for a betting license must submit a security deposit. The amount could be anywhere between the €5 million-€50 million range, depending on the volume of expected business. 

Clearly Specified Gambling Sections

The operator website must contain clearly defined separate sections for each type of gambling. Since the player is not allowed to partake in multiple forms of gambling at the same time, the operator needs to be very specific about their gambling offerings. 

Advertising Restrictions

The new online poker regulations to broadcast ads on television and other media. But, they would have to follow certain rules. TV ads for online betting agencies can’t air in family time TV slots, which is considered to be between 6 AM to 9 PM. 

Operators are not allowed to show their customers an ad for different gambling activities on their site, while they are already engaged in a certain in-site gambling event. 

Who Received The New License Under The New Rule?

On October 12, 2020, 15 operators received licenses to operate under the new gambling rule in Germany. BetVictor, Bet365, and Bwin are some of the names that have been greenlit to offer online poker services in Germany. 

One of the prominent names that didn’t make the licensing cut is Run It Once. The site says that it will temporarily suspend its operations in Germany until they receive a license. Sources say that Run It Once’s time out from the German market will not last longer than a month or two. 

What Are The Operators Doing?

All operators willing to reprise their business in Germany have started to make preparations to comply with the new legislation.  As we have stated earlier, 12 betting agencies have already got their new licenses, while many others are doing the groundwork to apply for licenses. 

Any companies not acting within the July 15, 2021, deadline, would not be allowed to be operational in the country.  Here are the strategies that are taken by some major operators: 

PokerStars

German nationals who have been associated with PokerStars Europe events, will not be allowed to participate anymore. The players would not be allowed to play, even if they are not presently located in Germany. Player-to-player transfers have also been stopped. 

Run It Once

As we mentioned earlier, Run It Once will take a hiatus from the German gambling world. They have announced that they would be back in the country within a few months. 

888 Poker

888 poker will shift their German clientele to another German party on November 2. The agency has promised that this will not compromise the amenities German players had been getting earlier. In fact, they would receive exciting new promotional offers from their new operator base. 

Unibet

To adapt to the German regulations, Unibet has deactivated its desktop client in Germany. As an auxiliary measure, it would move to a web-based client, which would conform to the Interstate Gambling Treaty of 2021. The company has promised to bring back the desktop client later.

However, Unibet officials failed to provide a specific timeline for the return of their desktop client in Germany. That leads us to believe that it’s not happening anytime soon. 

Partypoker

To handle the current situation, partypoker has also moved its clientele to a new client. To incentivize players into completing their KYC (Know Your Customer) verifications, the company has been giving away free tournament tickets. 

GG Network

GG Network is bringing all of its German players under the same umbrella. This means all German players will now be registered in the GG Network. None of them would get access to the Natural8 client. Players who were previously in Natural8 will lose Natural8-specific privileges. 

Things Could Get Even Tighter

There are speculations that more restrictions could be imposed once the law takes full effect on July 2021. The four table poker permission could get the chop, meaning layers would be only allowed to play one table at a time. 

There are also rumors regarding a central database. 

Reportedly, all operators would be asked to upload their user data in a central network. If this actually happens, this would raise quite a few eyebrows cause it would be conflicting with the European Data Protection Act. 

There are also reports that the current €1000 deposit cap could be reduced even further once the law kicks in permanently in 2021. However, do take these ominous predictions with a grain of salt. If these changes do happen, it would regress the online poker culture in Germany even more. 

Final Say

It is evident that German lawmakers have gone for such severe measures to prioritize the safety of their own citizens. The rigid sending cap would prevent gamblers from losing a huge amount of money online and gamble more responsibly.

But, these online poker regulations would also make it virtually impossible for any German national to pursue a serious career in online poker. In the pandemic-hit economy, this could make for a sustainable earning source for many people. Hopefully, the authorities will consider that and loosen up. 

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