Online Gambling Law in Germany
Online gambling is mostly outlawed in Germany. We say "mostly" because Germany is one of those places where it's definitely illegal to host a gaming site, but the legality of just placing bets online is unclear. A certain interpretation of German law could classify the act of placing a bet online as illegal, but the authorities appear to have no interest in reading or enforcing the law in that manner.
One thing we can tell you for certain is that online gambling is popular in Germany. More importantly, not a single German has ever gotten in trouble placing a bet over the internet. The legal battles in that country mostly revolve around the right of operators to offer their services to the public.
Where to Play Online
Any Germans reading this should look to gambling sites based out of the country. Current national law doesn't allow for the licensing of casino sites, so people resort to foreign operators. Companies based outside of Germany aren't beholden to German law and can therefore accept wagers from anyone inside the country.
The main thing to remember when dealing with foreign operators is that you have no legal recourse under German law if something happens to your money. It's best to stick with gambling sites that are licensed by reputable jurisdictions such as the UK or the Isle of Man. Equally important is the reputation of each site in terms of paying players and hosting honest games.
Stick with the places recommended here to ensure your safety and get paid when you win. These are some of the biggest names in the global gaming market, and they are as legit as any brick-and-mortar casino in Germany.
German Law is in a State of Flux
The difficulty in analyzing the German market is that the laws have experienced a great deal of turbulence in recent times. Adding to the confusion is the ability of each state to regulate gambling how it sees fit.
Germany is a mix of wide-reaching national laws and more limited state laws. Some forms of betting are allowed in some states while others are banned in others. It's also apparent that incoming governors are not afraid to completely reverse gaming laws enacted by their predecessors.
Up until 2008, online gambling was unregulated in Germany. The laws at the time didn't address the internet in any way. Things changed when the Interstate Treaty on Gambling (ISTG) was passed in 2008. This effectively banned all forms of online gambling other than sports betting and horse racing offered by state-owned entities.
All 16 states initially joined the treaty. The state of Schleswig-Holstein opted out in 2012 and even issued licenses to about 3 dozen operators, including PokerStars and 888. It would not last for long. The move was reversed just a year later when the state government was voted out of office and the new governor took over.
The good news for the operators that went through the trouble of getting licensed is their 6-year licenses remain in effect. All operators who earned licenses are able to provide real money casino games and poker to players inside the state of Schleswig-Holstein until 2018.
As things stand now, online gambling is largely outlawed across Germany with the exception of the two dozen or so operators who have licenses to operate in Schleswig-Holstein. There are no other legal gaming sites in Germany, and there's no way to obtain a license to offer games.
German gaming laws violate EU rules regarding free trade and competition. The EU has chastised Germany for its harsh stance on gambling, but Germany seems destined to keep things as they are for the time being. In the meantime, we would like to point you to any of the safe and reputable gaming sites mentioned on this site.
Author: Wesley Burns
Updated: March 2015