Federal State of Hesse wants to legalize Online-Poker in Germany

The provincial government of Hesse, one of the 16 states that form the federal republic of Germany, wants to legalise and regulate online poker and casino games in Germany. In a press release from 8 October, the Hessian inner ministry released its proposal of how to regulate gambling in Germany with regard to modern measures. Right in the first point of its five-point plan, the provincial government states: the prohibition of casino and poker games needs to be abolished. Instead, the government wants to issue licenses to poker rooms.

This change of heart from the Hessian inner ministry comes as no surprise: More than any
other German state, Hesse feels, due to experience, that the existing regulations are unworldly and that they just cannot be enforced. Acting for all 16 states, Hessen was instructed to issue 20 licenses nationwide to sport bets companies. Online poker and online casinos were supposed to stay prohibited.

However, as was to be expected, the regulation of issuing only 20 licenses for sport bets led to a problem. After Hesse had chosen 20 companies out of all available candidates in a rather non-transparent procedure, those companies that didn’t get a license – as e.g. the market leader Tipico- decided to take legal steps. Thereupon the administrative tribunal in Wiesbaden, Hesse’s capital city, stopped the issuance of licenses. This being said, it only sounds consequent, that in their new proposal, Hesse won’t restrict the numbers of licenses to be issued.

Hessen will Online Poker legalisierenScreenshot: The press announcement of the Hesse inner ministry

In addition, to the delight of many poker players and casino fans, Hesse’s proposals even go one step further and eliminate another point of critique, which is the prohibition of online poker and online casinos. In 2012, the EU commission had already publically criticized Germany for legalising sport bets, but not poker or casino games. A strict prohibition would only be possible, if the German states brought proof that particularly poker and casino were addictive and used for money laundering. Up till today, this hasn’t happened.

If Hesse’s reasonable proposals will find supporters or not remains to be seen. The first positive reactions came from Schleswig-Holstein’s, the northernmost German state’s, opposition. In Schleswig-Holstein, the CDU (Christian-Democratic-Union, party of Germany’s chancellor Angela Merkel) and FDP (Free-Democratic-Party, a liberal German party; until 2013 it was part of a coalition in Germany’s federal government), which, back then, still used to belong to Kiel’s government (Kiel is Schleswig-Holstein’s capital city), had already introduced gambling regulations that met modern measures years ago. Furthermore they issued poker and casino licenses that nowadays still allow you to legally play poker in Germany.

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