German gambling laws are among the most restrictive of all EU member states. The State Treaty on Gambling, established in 2008 in an attempt to curb gambling addiction, severely reduced the number of legal options available to Germans, especially with regards to sports betting. The law banned online gambling in all forms (except wagers on horse racing), and restricted land-based sports betting to a handful of state-run operators like Oddset.
As a result, illegal gambling became widespread. Punters often find better odds and greater event coverage at online sportsbooks in Germany. Players flocked to these betting sites – and because these sites are operated out of other countries, German authorities had little recourse. These unregulated sports betting sites drew business away from the state monopoly, and ultimate created a hole in state coffers.
In fact, it is estimated that of the 7.8 billion euros that Germans wagered in 2009, some 94% went to companies licensed and operating outside of Germany.
Germany’s gambling laws are up for review next year, and lawmakers are considering their options. In a study from the Kiel Institute for the World Economy, Professor Ulrich Schmidt calls for the liberalization of the country’s sports betting market, and for a scheme that would allow state-owned operators to compete with private companies for their share of the revenue generated by internet betting in Germany.
Some politicians are discussing change. Some would like to see Germany abolish the state gambling monopoly, while others are still concerned that more options will lead to more gambling addicts. One thing is clear – the current situation has not stifled the will of local gamblers, and as the World Cup kicks off in a few weeks, more punters than ever will be lining up to place their bets.