Tuesday July 19,2011 : German State Treaty is in breach of EU law, and here's why.
The preliminary news that the European Commission has rejected the protectionist and restrictive new German law on gambling, has been given more depth by the release by the European Gaming and Betting Association of the reasons therefore.
The trade body says that the Commission's detailed opinion on the draft German State Treaty confirms that the EC believes that the proposals are in breach of EU law.
And EGBA asserts that if the draft is not substantially changed after this warning, Germany risks formal infringement proceedings, referral to the European Court of Justice (CJEU) and ultimately financial penalties.
While the draft law appears to open the market for online sports betting operators from all EU member states, it in practice reserves the market for the incumbent German state monopolies, says EGBA, which considers that several requirements are in breach, including:
* The total number of sports betting licenses available is limited without justification to seven, whereas the state monopoly for sports betting is exempt from the requirement to apply for a licence;
* An exorbitant tax of 16.67 percent of the amount wagered is imposed on all operators. This will make online wagering uneconomic, excluding online operators and is clearly intended to protect the current state monopoly on offline bets from online competition;
* The licensing system ‘bundles’ offline and online sports betting together and applies a commercial viability test to would-be operators, thus putting online-only operators at an automatic disadvantage in applying for a licence;
* While privately owned land-based premises are limited to 350 per license, no such restriction applies to outlets employed by the state-owned operators
* Certain casino games may be offered online but only by specified casino game operators that are already operating land-based casino games in Germany;
* An illegal expansion of marketing is encouraged for the state monopoly, but marketing restrictions are placed on other operators;
* The license fee will favour those applicants with land-based operations that attract higher margins and appears to be unrelated to the costs incurred to deliver and then maintain the license.
Sigrid Ligné, secretary general of EGBA said in a statement this week: "The draft German treaty has many provisions which are in conflict with EU law. But worse: it is clear that, taken together and especially including a prohibitive tax on wagers from which the incumbent state monopoly is exempt, these provisions effectively slam the door in the face of EU operators from other member states and will in fact extend the monopoly for offline to online games.
"The Commission must act quickly to stop this test case for its stated aim of a common EU framework for this sector ".
The proposed German State Gambling Treaty comes after a number of preliminary rulings by the EU Court that the current State Treaty is incompatible with EU law (see previoius InfoPowa reports). The current law expires at the end of 2011 and the intention was to have the new treaty come into force in January 2012.
In Germany the regions, or Länder, are competent for lotteries and sports betting while casinos and slot machines are the competence of the federal state.
There is however no agreement between the Länder on this draft treaty on sports betting.
The state of Schleswig Holstein has already notified an alternative gambling law that will foster a commercially viable sports betting market for EU-licensed operators, thereby removing the attractions of the black market for consumers.
The Commission raised no objections to such law and EGBA remains fully supportive of the efforts to enact it.
According to a study by Gold Media, the gross online gaming and betting revenue in Germany was Euro 1 billion in 2009, with a 30 percent annual growth rate.