When it comes to German gambling, news reports inform us that it may be game over for thousands of Berlin slot machines, as a two year period of grace comes to an end on Monday. According to the rules laid down two years ago, casinos in the German capital must shed around a third of their gaming machines by June 2nd.
While it is illegal to play at online casinos in Germany, land-based gaming is legal, even if strictly regulated.
Not only are there German gambling laws on a federal level, but local restrictions may also be imposed on the industry.
Berlin was the first state to adopt a law to curb gambling halls. It is still regarded as the strictest law anywhere in the country, stipulating among other things a reduced cap on slot machines per establishment, dropping from 12 to 8.
Since the law passed, the number of casinos has not increased, but the number of machines has. There are around 6,600 slots in the capital, situated in some 580 arcades and many so-called cafe casinos. This means that around 2,200 of them must be unplugged for good.
Speaking of cafe casinos, the phenomenon is fairly recent and is the direct result of the changes passed two years ago. While casinos and gambling halls have strict licensing requirements, restaurants have been allowed to host a couple of gambling machines without much scrutiny – a loophole that has been eagerly exploited. "After we have curbed the arcades, the number of cafe casinos increased in Berlin," said Daniel Bucholz (SPD), member of the Berlin House of Representatives.
Authorities are promising a strict enforcement of the rules, with inspectors scheduled to visit each and every gambling arcade and cafe casino.
Operators are naturally unhappy and are still holding out for a Supreme Court decision, which will not be forthcoming before the shutdown deadline. If the move is ruled illegal operators may sue the state for damages.