Second Website Blocking Effort Fails In Germany

February 17, 2023
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The German Sports Betting Association (DSWV) is urging the gambling regulator to move away from enforcement and toward strengthening legal online gambling operators, after two attempts at IP blocking failed in court.

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The German Sports Betting Association (DSWV) is urging the gambling regulator to move away from enforcement and toward strengthening legal online gambling operators, after two attempts at IP blocking failed in court.

The trade group’s appeal comes as the Düsseldorf Administrative Court rejected as unlawful, orders issued by the Joint Gambling Authority of the Federal States (GGL) attempting to force internet service providers to block unlicensed websites.

That decision follows an earlier ruling by the Higher Administrative Court of Rhineland-Palatinate, in which an order targeting Gibraltar-based Lottoland for website blocking by an ISP was considered “materially unlawful”.

The DSWV called for the GGL to “swiftly expand” the menu of allowed sports bets and to abandon manual verification of individual slots games.

“The GGL can no longer rely on the enforcement measure, IP blocking,” the DSWV said.

“It is now all the more urgent for the authority to resort to alternative measures to combat the black market and strengthen the legal providers,” the group said.

The Düsseldorf decision was made on February 3, but has not been released by the court, while the Rhineland-Palatinate ruling took place on January 31, 2023.

Industry officials have complained that a limited menu of permitted sporting bets, plus the need to have every slot game approved individually for each licensee, is handicapping legal operators against the black market.

Last summer, the DSWV said it had found more than 500 gambling websites illegally targeting German players.

The GGL may not, however, have much leeway to relax rules on testing games.

The interstate treaty regulating gambling “leaves no room for interpretation”, according to Volker Tittel, the authority’s administrator for virtual slots.

“It is the authority's duty to examine every single game,” he told a webinar audience this week, according to games&business, a German gambling publication.

“There cannot be a machine check,” Tittel said. The German state treaty does not provide for B2B licences for game developers, or a “white list” for games, he said.

“Every game that a provider submits to the authority must be checked, regardless of whether another provider has already submitted it,” he said, according to the publication.

A lawyer from law firm Hambach and Hambach, Yannick Skulski, agreed that the procedure for approving individual slot games is “cumbersome”.

“Only a change in the law can really remedy this situation,” he said.

To help, the GGL has offered a list of the 10 most common flaws in applications, such as a requirement to use German and lack of display of return to player rates, Skulski said.

The applicant will need to confirm to the authority that these problems have been remedied before the regulator will further examine the games, he said.

The only good news on slots is that a report on an evaluation of the treaty is planned for the end of the year, Skulski said.

But prospects for a quick expansion of the betting programme “should be in the interest of all parties involved and is also entirely within the realm of possibility”, Skulski said.

The GGL can use a simplified procedure for approval of permitted bets, he said.

If a kind of bet is listed on the authority’s website, the operator can notify the GGL of its intention to use such a bet, and if there is no objection within two weeks, permission to offer that bet is considered to be granted, Skulski said.

“Hopefully, the GGL will make even more use of this,” he said.

The GGL itself did not respond to a request for comment in time for publication.

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