German contenders for virtual slots and poker licences should not be offering player bonuses while they await results of their applications, as offering incentives is considered illegal advertising, a gambling lawyer has said.
Online operators are following strict rules such as €1 stakes and five-second spins during a transitional arrangement meant to accommodate companies until they can obtain online slots and poker licences.
But they are not supposed to advertise until they get their licence and both the interstate gambling treaty and September 2020 guidelines define bonuses as advertising, as they are “aimed at incentivising playing, attracting new players and increasing turnover”, said lawyer Joerg Hofmann of MELCHERS law firm.
“It’s quite risky to offer bonuses for casino games,” he said.
No online slots or poker licences have yet been approved from the 50-plus applications, despite the July 1 opening of the market. The delay is reportedly due to a lack of staff at the Saxony-Anhalt state administrative office, which is reviewing applications.
Hofmann was speaking at the online-based European Gaming Q1 Meetup on Tuesday (February 15), organised by the Romania-based Hipther Agency.
The 36 current sports-betting licensees can advertise and companies with an online casino or sports-betting licence from Schleswig-Holstein can advertise, as long as the advert carries a disclaimer that the offers only apply to residents of that northern German state, Hofmann said.
Still to be resolved are approvals for online table games such as roulette and blackjack, licensing of which is reserved for the 16 German states.
So far, only Schleswig-Holstein and North Rhine-Westphalia have declared intentions to offer licensing programmes, with at least four opting for monopolies.
Another complication is that applicants for virtual slots and poker licences need to get every individual game approved by the regulator, even if they offer hundreds of titles, Hofmann said.
He was unwilling to speculate that requirement was behind the delays in licence approvals, noting only that there have been no official explanations for delays.
Separately, the regional council for Darmstadt, which currently regulates sports betting, released two lists of permitted bets on Tuesday.
The lists only cover football and more lists are expected. These lists are “not exhaustive”, but Hofmann called them “very restrictive”.
Licensees are meant to tell the regulator which of the bets they offer, or intend to offer.
Many bets allowed before the match are not allowed in live betting, such as which team will win at least one or both halves of the game, or number of goals in the first or second half.
Most bets on individual players’ performance during a match are not allowed except before the match.
Permitted matches include the Olympics, the African Cup of Nations, Germany’s Bundesliga, England’s Premier League and Italy’s Coppa Italia, as well as the United States’ Major League Soccer and National Women’s Soccer League.