Legal action has targeted provisions including those limiting live bets and setting a €1,000 monthly limit on deposits, according to German magazine WirtschaftsWoche.
The council has been reviewing licence applications since January 2020 but on January 1, 2023, its authority passes to the planned central regulator, the Joint Gaming Authority for the Federal States (GGL).
The council has supplied 41 licences, although some companies have several.
Germany’s largest bookmaker, Tipico, said it has challenged the €1,000 monthly deposit limit, saying it “significantly interferes with the individual freedom rights of consumers without being able to verifiably increase player protection”.
There is no comparable limit in land-based casinos or betting shops, and it drives players into the unregulated black market, a Tipico spokesperson said.
Although the limit is not applicable until the court decides on its appeal, the bookmaker said it already takes “numerous effective player-protection measures”, including a warning notice when players deposit more than €1,000, along with the possibility to set individual limits.
At the time of writing, bookmaker bet-at-home has not responded to questions.
News that the Hesse council has been plagued by litigation may not bode well for licensing of virtual slots and poker.
The Saxony-Anhalt administrative office has been reviewing applications since July 1 last year, but no licence approvals have yet been announced.
So far, 58 slots applications have been received, and eight for poker, the authority said last month.
Various reasons have been offered for the delay, including lack of agreement among members of the Glücksspielkollegium, the body that includes members from all 16 states and reviews licensing decisions by the other regulators.
Last week, Saxony-Anhalt’s interior minister Tamara Zieschang told games & business magazine, that every application lacked some required documents.
But at least one attorney thinks the online slots and poker process may be stalled because the gambling treaty itself is flawed.
Lower Saxony-based Bernd Hansen pointed to one treaty provision: “a permit for the organization of virtual machine games may only be granted if neither the applicant himself nor a company affiliated with him organizes illegal games of chance".
The problem is that virtually all the applicants currently offer “illegal games of chance,” the attorney said.
The so-called “circular agreement”, or the transitional rules that allow operators to offer online slots or poker if they meet the terms of the treaty, which include €1 slots stakes, does not protect applicants, he said.
“Saxony-Anhalt has made it clear to the Magdeburg Administrative Court that these announcements are only non-binding cooperation agreements that do not change gaming law”, Hansen said.
Hansen did not respond to a request for elaboration and the Saxony-Anhalt administration office did not respond to emailed questions about the application process.
Attorney Martin Arendts said he presumes more than 90 percent of potential licence applicants “are offering or have offered some form of illegal gambling”.
He cited “several serious technical shortcomings in the legislative procedure which will lead to even more legal battles” beyond the litigation Hesse is already experiencing.