Bookmakers in the German state of Bremen have filed five lawsuits after they were forced to close their doors by the regional government last week over money laundering fears.
Mathias Dahms, the German Sports Betting Association’s (DSWV) president, has urged the state to allow the betting shops to remain open until the lawsuits are settled, warning that if operators are successful in their legal challenge then “they can file a claim for compensation”.
Dahms wants a quick resolution, but expects the legal dispute could drag on as it will likely have to go through several courts until it is resolved.
Despite the threat of having to pay compensation to the bookmakers, Bremen's senator for the Interior, Ulrich Mäurer, said “we are staying on our course” in a press release on Friday (August 5), the deadline that was given to bookmakers to cease operating.
With support from the police, Bremen authorities will be checking betting shops to ensure they are shut, warning that any activity will constitute “illegal gambling” and lead to forced closures and police investigations.
Mäurer dismissed accusations by DSWV and operators in the German media that the closures were damaging their reputation.
“If an industry is demonstrably misused to launder dirty money from drugs and human trafficking, then it is not only legitimate, but absolutely necessary” to take action, said Mäurer.
The Ministry for the Interior, however, reiterated that it is not implying that money is actually being laundered and admitted “there are currently no indications for this”,
Four operators — Tipico, HAPPYBET, Tipwin and XTiP — have applied for permission to run the betting shops, 24 of which were previously “only legally tolerated”, according to Mäurer, with a further eight planned to be opened.
Bremen’s Interior ministry said it has already received the document it requires from more than 16 shops that it will evaluate, but those shops must also remain closed while it does so.
Mäurer promised to make a decision regarding these cases quickly.
The minister for the Interior also rejected claims that operators had insufficient warning regarding the documents it required, pointing out that a leaflet was sent out after changes were made to the Bremen Gaming Act in July 2021.
The changes meant that all of the current applicants to operate betting shops have to provide information on where the money they used to set up their businesses comes from.
“The letter clearly stated which documents the regulatory office needed to permit a sports betting site. The response was poor, to say the least — with the well-known result,” said Mäurer.