Posted 2/20/11 : According to reports in the Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper, the well-established and successful German gambling group founded by Paul Gauselmann has been ‘showering' the country’s political parties with more than Euro 1 million in political contributions.
And in order to circumvent restrictions on the amount of any single donation in a year, the report suggests that the million Euro bonanza was broken up into small amounts.
German law obliges poliical parties to report all donations over Euro10,000; individual political donations may not exceed Euro 50,000 annually or Euro 70,000 in an election year.
The newspaper claims that Gauselmann urged his managers to make several small donations to the country's four major political parties – Euro 80,000 alone last year – in order to “encourage understanding” for the German gambling industry.
Apparently Gauselmann has confirmed the contents of his communication to his managers, which was published in Süddeutsche Zeitung. However, he has denied trying to bribe politicians, claiming that he has made political donations for the past 20 years and openly and lawfully deducted all donations against income tax.
The report has been seized upon by opponents of government decisions to allow the opening of more land gambling venues, who claim that since the more liberal policy was adopted in 2006 there has been an explosion in the number of gaming halls in major German cities and a rise in the incidence of problem gambling as a consequence.
Studies have shown that over half a million Germans spend a total of Euro 3.3 billion annually in betting shops, casinos and gaming halls. Bars and restaurants are allowed to operate three gambling machines each, and there are reports that Berlin alone has over 300 casinos and gambling halls and 37,000 confirmed problem gamblers.
Moves are afoot to address the over-expansion, with Berlin city government undertaking to limit operational hours, increase taxation to 20 percent and generally tighten up on legalization and enforcement.
Not everyone feels this is sufficient; Maren Kern, spokeswoman for the Berlin resident’s association BBU, commented: “The city government is offering an umbrella as protection against a flood."