Hambach & Hambach contributing to the 2nd Edition of The Legal500’ County Comparative Guide on German Gambling LawOnline Gambling News
Hambach & Hambach law firm is proud to once again contribute to The Legal500’s Country Comparative Guides in the area of Gambling Law. The Legal500’s Country Guides are structured in a Q&A format and are designed to provide an overview of the respective sector as well as to analyse current trends and developments in the practice areas in order to provide readers with a deeper understanding of the pressing issues. As one of the leading law firms in the field of gambling law, Hambach & Hambach has written the chapter on German Gambling Law. The Q&A template for each chapter has been provided by Bahar Alaeddini of the law firm Harris Hagan.
The Legal500 ‘s Country Comparative Guide on Gambling Law can be found under the following link https://www.legal500.com/guides/guide/gambling-law/.
Lawyer Yannick Skulski
Salary Partner* at Hambach & Hambach
Yannick Skulski is Salary Partner at Hambach & Hambach. He advises domestic and foreign companies from the digital economy in the field of public law, in particular in gambling law and in nationwide licence application proceedings. He also advises clients on European law, strategic and regulatory issues as well as on compliance issues. Mr Skulski is co-author of the Legal500 Country Comparative Guide Gambling Law Germany.
*Employed lawyer without shareholder position
Germany’s illegal gambling problemOnline Gambling News
By iGB Editorial Team
Germany’s licensed gambling operators are under greater pressure from black market competition than ever before, attendees of Behörden Spiegel’s Bundeskonferenz zum Glücksspielwesen warned last week.
“The best antidote to the illegal market is a competitive regulated market,” the Betting and Gaming Council’s (BGC) Wes Himes told delegates at the conference last week.
Critics lined up to attack slow progress on regulatory reform in Great Britain, the BGC’s home market after a three-year review and six different gambling ministers. But in Germany, the Gambling Act white paper is held up as a successful, collaborative and proportionate model for fine-tuning gambling regulation.
In a market with blanket online slot stake limits of €1 and where monthly deposits are capped at €1,000 Great Britain’s emphasis on moderating rather than prohibiting activity appeals to many. Many attacked affordability checks as intrusive and excessive, but it provides a personalised compromise that Germany lacks, attendees and panellists suggested.
The strict measures only serve to shore up illegal competition, across the land-based, street and online sectors.
New State Treaty, the same old problems
Chief executive of local licensee Rootz Sam Brown laid bare the impact of re-regulation during a session organised by gambling law specialists Hambach & Hambach. There is a clear parallel between re-regulation and a rise in illegal online play, he explained.
Before the toleration period where businesses adhering to the 2021 State Treaty’s conditions were allowed to operate without a licence, Rootz players deposited €350 on average, Brown explained, and gross revenue per player averaged €141.
By August 2023, however, average customer deposits fell 80% to €150, with GGR per play halved to €73. Around 10% of Rootz’ pre-regulatory business channelled to the regulated market Brown added. “And they haven’t stopped gambling and found another hobby.”
Strict measures such as deposit and staking limits play a big role in the black market boom, he says. Harm prevention should be the ultimate responsibility of the operators Brown added, echoing a point from Himes about GB operators recognising their leading role in player protection.
The operators, not the authorities, not the legislators, hold all the data. Addicted customers are bad for business Brown said, but a personalised approach based on individual players will be more effective than Germany’s blanket restrictions.
This is especially significant if it shifts consumers to illegal sites without safeguards. Brown believes around 80% of online slot play is happening illegally, a far cry from new federal regulator Gemeinsame Glücksspielbehörde der Länder’s (GGL) claims of high channelisation.
Black and white markets powered by the same providers
Hambach & Hambach salary partner Yannick Skulsky pointed out slot sites – somewhat counter-intuitively – cannot be marketed as casino. Furthermore, regulations make it incredibly difficult for legal operators to roll out new titles, and very easy (and lucrative) for black market counterparts to do the same.
For the legal market, individual games must be certified. An operator needs a licence to offer slots, then specific permission for each game. The GGL, which carries out its testing internally, has scope to hire around 150 staff. It currently employs around half that number, a mixture of part- and full-time employees. There is inevitably a backlog for slot certification.
However there is no B2B licensing. A game could be certified and launched by one licensee, while another still awaits permission. Or a slot studio could have its legal roll-out delayed with one licensed client while the revenue flows in through an unlicensed brand.
Player claims and Malta’s Bill 55
It seems attempts by players to recoup gambling losses from unlicensed brands isn’t much of a deterrent, either.
Courts and customers in Germany continue to pursue operators for losses incurred during Germany’s long delays in implementing its State Treaty. Austrian lawyers are even trying to file claims against individual executives and directors.
Hambach & Hambach founding partner Claus Hambach believes this situation – one he admits feels quite surreal – is beginning to rationalise. While state high courts rule in favour of the players, a Supreme Court ruling possibly changes the outlook.
It threw out a claim to recoup losses from a payment provider, predominantly on the basis that the player was gambling. They knew money was at risk. Further, it noted the contact between the player and the operator could not be voided as both parties, by placing and accepting the bets, were effectively breaking the law formally.
Hambach sees a legal article published by German civil law expert Professor H Köhler as the way forward. There are only three factors that should prompt an operator to return losses to a player, Professor Köhler argues.
Any losses incurred by minors should be refunded, and players able to prove they were misled by a brand pretending to be licensed would be eligible. Those suffering from gambling addiction would also be able to claim back losses, if they are able to provide medical proof of their condition.
Malta’s attempt to protect its licensees from these cases, Bill 55, is viewed as bigger than a gambling matter by conference delegates. But not only will the European Commission look into Malta`s legislative approach but the European Court of Justice will also evaluate Germany’s disputed Interstate Treaty on Gambling, which is the basis for the claims in the first place (Case C-440/23).
Germany’s omnichannel black market
However illegal play is prevalent across all channels. The illegal gaming machine market is growing, and unlicensed Kaffe Kasinos are on the rise, warned Burkhard Blienert of the Federal Council on Addiction and Drug Issues.
Law enforcement experts pointed out illegal gambling is relatively low risk for criminal groups and remains highly profitable and a popular method of money laundering. It is also easy to manipulate legal devices or build approximations of traditional gambling devices – several primitive slots and even a variant of roulette seized by the police were on display.
However from government level there remains a desire to tackle illegal gambling in tandem with strict controls on the regulated market. For example Blienert argued sports betting advertising was as much a threat as illegal gambling and loot boxes, amid debate on whether TV ads, football sponsorship and other branding should be limited or banned similar to Great Britain.
However Gauselmann Group director Manfred Stoffers took a contrasting view. Player protection is raised by regulation, he argued. If an activity happens in the open, it can be monitored and controlled.
But two years on from the GGL taking charge of igaming regulation, operators and associations argue Germany’s strict regulatory measures are only benefitting the black market.
The EU crypto momentumPayment News
Christina Kirichenko and Linda Ziehms
Senior Associate / Of Counsel at Hambach & Hambach
Christina Kirichenko is a senior associate at Hambach & Hambach. She advises domestic and foreign companies from the digital economy, especially neo-banking and FinTech enterprises, on regulatory and civil law issues. She also advises clients in the gaming industry on German and European law, strategic and regulatory matters, as well as compliance issues.
The co-author Linda Ziehms is Of Counsel at Hambach & Hambach. She advised leading German financial infrastructure companies such as Deutsche Börse AG Group and dwpbank AG on legal, economic and strategic issues and herself held operational management positions in the securities business for many years. She participated in various market and government initiatives to improve the legal framework of the national and EU-wide securities business. Linda Ziehms is also an Executive MBA (Mannheim and ESSEC) since 2015, focusing on platform economics and ecosystems.
So far, 2023 has been a remarkable year for the Crypto industry worldwide and the EU crypto landscape. Adopted in April 2023, the EU Regulation on Markets in Crypto Assets (MiCAR) is the first comprehensive rule book for crypto assets and crypto services in the world. In terms of regulation and oversight, MiCAR follows in principle the systematic regulatory approach introduced by the EU Directives regarding Markets in Financial Instruments (MiFID/ MiFIR) for “classical” non-DLT-based financial instruments and financial services in the EU.
Additionally, the EU reviewed and extended the Transfer of Funds Regulation (TFR) to cover transfers in crypto assets as well. Furthermore, the EU incorporated the so called “Travel Rule” recommended by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) as main promoter of harmonised and systematic prevention of anti-money-laundering rules into European legislation. Pursuant to the “Travel Rule” businesses must ensure that the parties of a transaction of crypto assets like e.g., Bitcoin – and ideally the final beneficiaries - are satisfyingly identified and recorded.
Finally, on 13 September, the EU adopted the 8th iteration of the Directive on Administrative Cooperation (DAC8) that includes a cryptocurrency tax reporting rule. The crypto regulation shall enable the mainstream adoption of crypto assets in the EU due to boosting the confidence and trust of the investors. The new regulatory framework aims to (re)install long-awaited certainty and confidence to crypto market and ensures full harmonisation across the EU in a mid-term timeframe.
MiCAR implementation is still in development
According to MiCAR as “Level One” legislation directly applicable in all EU Member States, CASPs and crypto issuers must seek an EU license to issue, trade, and safeguard crypto assets in the EU. Obtained national AML registrations or national licenses require an “uplift” to the new MiCAR standards. The new license regime imposes numerous comprehensive compliance obligations, including a business plan, an appropriate, documented business set-up with transparent governance structures, minimum capital requirements, an appropriate risk management approach in relation to the expected business, experienced senior staff in key functions and substantially equipped compliance functions for fighting money laundering and terrorism financing. However, the new licences allow for EU passporting and thus easy regulatory access to all EU Member States markets.
However, the so-called “Level-Two” legislation still needs to address many issues in detail. The EU agencies are required to develop a substantial package for operationally implementing measures beneath MiCAR. On 5 October 2023, the European Securities and Markets Authority published the second consultation package with a deadline for comments on 14 December. It includes six draft Regulatory Technical Standards and two draft Implementing Technical Standards, including standards on business continuity, transparency, record-keeping, crypto asset white papers and many others. We are closely monitoring all developments and will report on substantial milestones regarding the progressing regulatory processes.
The end of the anonymity of crypto transfers
The already mentioned TFR introduces a transparency obligation for crypto transactions, whereas the DAC8 regime introduces a comprehensive tax reporting obligation. From January 2026, CASPs and crypto issuers are obliged to request the names of senders and beneficiaries of the respective crypto asset transactions regardless of the amount being transferred. The obligations under DAC8 include, alongside the name, the address, the distributed-ledger address, and the tax ID of the reportable user, the aggregate gross amounts of reportable crypto assets paid and received by the user during the year. Transparency obligations apply equally to those CASPs that do not fall into the scope of MiCAR.
Expanded regulatory landscape
As of late 2024, MiCAR automatically sets off the application of other EU legislation to CASPs and crypto issuers. Importantly, this includes the recently passed EU Digital Operation Resilience Act (DORA), which will be effective from January 2025. DORA lays out a very prescriptive set of rules concerning ICT management, including internal governance and control framework, incident management procedures, testing, and management of third-party risks. DORA does not include any thresholds and applies to all financial institutions, regardless of size, posing another challenging compliance task.
The clock is ticking
The complexity of a broader regulatory framework and a short implementation schedule indicate that the coming months will be very challenging for the crypto asset market. With MiCAR coming into effect in a staggered approach by mid-2024 and by end-2024 as well as DORA in January 2025, CASPs and crypto issuers need to familiarise themselves with new requirements, analyse their respective need for action and plan the required steps of implementation to comply with the upcoming new crypto framework.
Awards for Hambach & Hambach in 2023
We are pleased to announce that our founding partners, Dr. Wulf Hambach and Claus Hambach LL. M., have once again received multiple awards at the highest level for 2023.
Meet the Team
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Publisher: Hambach & Hambach Rechtsanwälte PartG mbB
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Tel. +49 89 389975-50 / Fax +49 89 389975-60
Responsible editor: Dr. Wulf Hambach
Editors: Dr. Wulf Hambach (responsible according to the German press law), Claus Hambach LL. M., Dr. Stefan Bolay, Dr. Stefanie Fuchs-Raicher, Maximilian Kienzerle, Yannick Skulski, Phillip Beumer, Christian Reidel, Simone Schünemann, Ferdinand Spann, Maximilian Krietenstein, Simon Deimel, Christina Kirichenko