German Market Frustrating, But Could Reward Some, Executives Say

June 7, 2023
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Germany is such a restrictive gambling market that it has probably lost all its high-rollers, but could reward those who persevere, executives have said.

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Germany is such a restrictive gambling market that it has probably lost all its high-rollers, but could reward those who persevere, executives have said.

Germany has €1 maximum slots stakes, five-second spin delays, a cumbersome process of games approval, €1,000 monthly deposit limits and has set online casino games like roulette aside for state-by-state approval.

“Everybody who comes here says, ‘Oh God, what did you do here?’,” said Mathias Dahms, president of the German Sports Betting Association (DSWV).

“It’s something from the German mentality,” he joked. “We have to reinvent the wheel, protection to the max.”

Uniquely so far, Germany has a centralised online gambling database called LUGAS, which is “quite a complicated mechanism”, Dahms said.

“We are really questioning whether this mechanism is worth the effort,” he said.

The database has three aims: to enforce the €1,000 monthly spending limit across all operators; to allow the regulator to view an operator’s every transaction if they wish; and as an activity file to prevent a consumer gambling simultaneously across multiple sites.

Such a system makes no sense for sports betting, as unlike some slots gamblers, bettors are not interested in parallel play, said Dahms, who also heads Merkur Sports and Gaming.

Sports punters seek out and then bet on the site offering best odds, he said.

Dahms and others were speaking at iGaming Germany in Munich on Tuesday (June 6).

Another executive said the cumbersome processes cause players to drift to the black market in search of better choice.

The game-by-game approval process means that licensees have 200 slots games if they are lucky, while unlicensed operators may have 1,500, said Maik Brodowski, head of German marketing for Betway.

While deposit limits have driven most if not all high-rollers to operators based in the Caribbean, Dahms claimed.

“Some of my former customers wanted to play a few hundred thousand euros per month — they are wealthy people, they are billionaires,” he said.

One goal of an interstate treaty that started the online gambling licensing process was channelisation.

But Dahms said the DSWV disagrees with the German regulator, the Joint Gaming Authority of the Federal States (GGL), on whether players are staying with licensed operators.

The GGL claims 95 percent channelisation of sports betting. However, the DSWV believes it is more like 75 to 80 percent, while slots is probably 50 to 60 percent, he said.

One executive defended the system.

To get online gambling licensing approved took years, as the 16 German states all had to agree.

The interstate treaty that eventually emerged was a compromise with a number of states that were against regulating slots at all, said Kevin Rieger of Bernstein Group consulting firm.

So some of the aspects least palatable to the industry are understandable, such as the €1 slots stakes, as an effort to align online slots with arcade slots, he said.

In a separate matter, the DSWV defended the nationwide OASIS gambling self-exclusion system after statistics drawn from it exposed the industry to criticism in recent days.

The fact that OASIS registrations rose from 47,000 in 2020 to 192,600 a month ago is not a sign Germany is being overwhelmed by gambling addiction, the sports-betting lobby group said.

Instead, it reflects that, in June 2021, OASIS had 464 operators with just over 1,500 sites, mostly arcades and casinos, while today, there are 6,400 operators with 29,500 sites linked to the system, the DSWV said.

“More player bans do not mean more gambling addicts, but more protected players,” the DSWV wrote.

Despite the challenging online gambling regulation, Germany could be a very rewarding market for those who endure, Dahms told the iGaming Germany audience.

Germany has 83m residents and is Europe’s largest economy.

Per capita spending on gambling is only €16, compared with €133 in the UK or €19 in less-wealthy Spain, he said.

“Sometimes [the rules] are difficult to understand, and you ask yourself, ‘why do I have to do this?’ but if you apply yourself you can do really well,” Dahms said.

“If you can make it in Germany, you can make it anywhere,” he said.

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