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Germany: Schleswig-Holstein’s Ministry of the Interior clarifies the scope of online casino game licences

One day after its 19 December 2012 issuance of the first 12 online casino game licences under Schleswig-Holstein’s Gambling Act, the state’s Ministry of the Interior sent out a warning letter to one licensee, a company resident in the state’s capital Kiel.

According to news reports, in its letter the Ministry requests this operator to comply with the conditions and requirements stipulated in the licence and in Schleswig-Holstein’s Gambling Act. The letter was a reaction to an interview given by the operator’s CEO to a local newspaper, in which he stated that he assumed the licence to be effective all over Germany.

To counter this assumption the Ministry made clear that the licences issued under the Gambling Act are only valid for offers to customers who are resident or have their habitual abode in Schleswig-Holstein. Furthermore, the Ministry emphasized that infringements of the Gambling Act or the conditions and requirements to the licence will lead to reactions by the authorities and could ultimately lead to the withdrawal of the licence.

The Ministry now clarified that these licences are – from its point of view – strictly limited not only to a state’s territory but also to a certain group of customers. As a consequence, customers resident in other German federal states or EU member states would be excluded from the services offered by licensees under the Gambling Act, even if they were only in Schleswig-Holstein for a short period (e.g. vacation).

Against the background of the latest developments in Schleswig-Holstein the Ministry’s clarification underscores the incoherent system of Gambling law in Germany. Hence, it remains to be seen how the German Federal High Court of Justice and the EU Commission will cope with this issue in the future. Major changes in German gambling law may lie ahead.