German Court Says Most Gambling Ad Restrictions Are Legal

June 23, 2023
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A higher administrative court in Germany’s Saxony-Anhalt has ruled that advertising rules barring gambling infomercials, ads for social casino games, and pitches by social media influencers are legally permissible, while a total ban on ads in public spaces is probably “disproportionate”.

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A higher administrative court in Germany’s Saxony-Anhalt has ruled that advertising rules barring gambling infomercials, ads for social casino games, and pitches by social media influencers are legally permissible, while a total ban on ads in public spaces is probably “disproportionate”.

In an interim ruling, the third senate of the higher administrative court said the Joint Gaming Authority of the Federal States (GGL) can proceed with enforcing most of Germany’s strict rules for advertising online slots and poker.

The GGL can enforce bans on advertising by social media streamers and influencers, along with bans on marketing via infomercials and all marketing for social casino games, according to a press release issued on behalf of the court.

Also banned is marketing by affiliates that offer links to unlicensed gambling websites alongside licensed sites.

“The regulations are necessary to ensure compliance with the goals of the state treaty on gambling, which include averting the risk of addiction and protecting minors,” the court said.

But the court said that a complete ban on ads in public spaces, such as train stations or transportation, is “disproportionate”, because rules against advertising slots and poker between 9am and 6pm could be adhered to with time limits on digital ads.

Advertising before movies restricted to over-18s could also be allowed, according to the court.

Operators are mostly unhappy with the ruling, as the interstate gambling treaty is strict on advertising and GGL licence terms are even more stringent, said Jan Feuerhake, an attorney with Taylor Wessing in Hamburg.

The strict rules favour the black market, as it makes it harder for gambling licensees to direct players to the licensed market, he said.

The court ruling contrasts with a recent decision by an administrative court in Hamburg, which said that the general prohibition on influencer marketing does not make sense and cannot be enforced, Feuerhake noted.

Also, the fact that this is an interim ruling, with the main proceedings set for next year, suggests “there may be some movement”, he said.

“The odds for the rules on advertising are still open,” he said.

“Unfortunately, (they) will be shaped by court decisions and not by the regulator.”

The Magdeburg ruling occurred June 15 and was disclosed in summary on June 20.

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