German state stops offering betting concessions

HAMBURG Thu Jan 24, 2013 9:53am EST

HAMBURG Jan 24 (Reuters) - The last regional government in Germany to oppose a state-controlled gambling monopoly has relinquished its authority to allocate concessions to private providers.

The centre-left government in Germany's northernmost federal state of Schleswig-Holstein rescinded a law passed by its predecessor that led to a liberalisation in sports betting and online poker.

All 15 other states had signed an agreement that allows only 20 concessions to be granted to private companies across all of Germany.

The previous centre-right government in Schleswig-Holstein had granted three six-year betting licences to Betfair, Jaxx and Oddset last May, only days before elections for state parliament.

As recently as last month the state granted a further 12 licences for online casino and poker games to operators including Bwin.Party Digital Entertainment, the world's largest listed online gaming group.

In a legal opinion submitted to the German government last month, the European Commission questioned the logic of Schleswig-Holstein moving to a more restrictive regime so soon after liberalising its market.

"The Commission would be interested in receiving information that would explain the substantial legislative changes to the regulation of online sports betting in Schleswig-Holstein not even one year after authorisation of this market," it said in a confidential document seen by Reuters.

Bwin.Party said this month that Germany should allow online gaming companies to compete on level terms with locally based operators.

Other foreign gambling companies, including Betfair and William Hill, have scaled down their operations in Germany because of a 5 percent turnover tax on sports betting.

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