Germany is known to love poker and has produced some of the best poker players in the world. Poker high roller legends like Fedor Holz, Manig Löser or Rainer Kempe all have two things in common: they come from Germany and they are not living in their home country anymore.
The reason for this is mainly a very foggy and unregulated legal situation in Germany. While poker is considered gambling and therefore should not be taxed, the German government often prosecuted poker players that win on a regular basis though, considering this a then a source of income and therefore taxable.
The rulings, however, never seem to be clear, universal or often don’t even make sense.
The current situation
Ever since the suspension of the first Interstate Treaty on Gambling (Glücksspielstaatsvertrag) in 2011 and its succeeding revision, online poker players in and from Germany have faced a legal uncertainty.
While supranational European Union (EU) law permitted online poker by poker rooms holding a EU-based license, the German authorities claimed a terrestrial monopoly on poker, including online poker. In consequence online poker was tolerated, even though it was prohibited by German law.
Players could not rule out legal consequences playing online. Due to inconsistency, regarding different sectors of gambling, the treaty was designated by the European Union to be revised. Until now it never happened, due to the legislative model that the State of Schleswig-Holstein used to implement. It decided to allow online gambling as the only German state by selling licenses to casino, sports betting and poker sites.
Accordingly there was no new Interstate Treaty on Gambling, which required all 16 federal states of Germany to sign it. Until now…
Hope for German poker players?
As the leading German press agency, „dpa“, reported, the state Chancellery of Nordrhein-Westfalen led a commission to work out a new Interstate Treaty on Gambling which should be in action by 1st July 2021, the date the actual regulation is ending.
Online poker, online casinos and online sports betting should be legalized by the new treaty. The providers of online gambling can obtain a license, with which they agree on sharing their player data with the to be founded Interstate Gambling Agency.
The agency will manage data on banned players and supervise the superordinate account players have to use for deposits. The deposits in total will be limited to €1,000 per month. It will also implement a system with which gambling addiction should be spotted and manipulations, especially in the field of sports betting should be exposed.
The preliminary treaty is about to be signed by all 16 ministers of state at the beginning of March and the parliaments of state have to agree on it afterwards. The new treaty would finally bring legal certainty to German online poker players.
It remains to be seen how the Gambling Agency will affect online play, how the collaboration with providers will play out and which consequences non-sanctioned online rooms have to face.
Obviously everybody wants to see regulation, but just as the deposit limit can be a problem for high stakes players there are some fears around rules that will be put in place. Players are hoping that the government will have good consultants to find solutions that will make everyone happy.