By Daniel Macadam, published at gamblingcompliance.com
Germany’s “Las Vegas of the north” can now go ahead with plans to be the only region to issue unlimited, low-tax online gambling licences.
The region’s political parties voted as they had done before when they last addressed the issue back in September, which was enough for the ruling Christian Democrat-Free Democratic Party coalition to defuse the so-called “demolition bill”.
There was an outside chance opposition MPs could muster enough support to overturn the one vote majority which passed Schleswig-Holstein’s 2011 Gambling Act.
Defeat for the Social Democrat-backed repealing bill is good news for the 86 operators which have requested information about applying for the region’s six-year online betting and eight-year online gaming licences.
Minutes after MPs cast their vote, betting exchange Betfair put out a statement that the state’s gambling law had cleared the “latest hurdle”.
Schleswig-Holstein’s laws have been approved by the European Commission, it pointed out, while the Interstate Treaty of the other 15 German Lander have “faced stern criticism” from local and EU stakeholders.
Earlier in the day, Daniel Stewart analyst Michael Campbell said German market leader Bwin.Party stood to lose the most from Schleswig-Holstein moving towards the “more restrictive tax regime” of 5 percent on turnover agreed by the other 15 Lander.
During the debate Social Democrat MP Uli Schippels said there was a “gold rush mentality” among the nearly 200 companies which visited Schleswig-Holstein last month to pool ideas on how to make it the “Las Vegas of the north”.
Green MPs, which voted in line with the Social Democrats, said the region should wait until the Interstate Treaty comes back from the European Commission.
“If the EU does not find the 15 states’ treaty EU-law compliant, then the 15 states should correct it, and after that we could join,” Green MP Monika Heinold said.
She added it was not “fair” to approve an act before Schleswig-Holstein’s elections on May 6 and issue licences which cannot be withdrawn without racking up multi-million euro liabilities
Munich-based lawyer Wulf Hambach of Hambach & Hambach said the CDU-FDP coalition would “press for licences to be out before the election” to finish off their work.
For the Social Democrats, Hambach said, the failure of their bill has left their “hands tied” if the European Commission does not approve the Interstate Treaty.
The Social Democrats, which boast seven of Germany’s 16 regional presidents, are the most vociferous opponents of opening up online gambling at the national level.
Yesterday MPs from the governing coalition zeroed in on the Social Democrat mayor of Schleswig-Holstein’s capital Kiel, Torsten Albig, for holding talks with Betfair about sponsoring the Kiel Regatta.
Some of Europe’s largest online gambling operators have snapped up sponsorship deals in Schleswig-Holstein ahead of the market opening.
In November, Bwin agreed to sponsor handball champions THW Kiel. Weeks later lower league football side VfB Lübeck changed its stadium name to the “PokerStars.de at the Lohmühle Stadium”.
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