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FRANKFURT, Aug 24 (Reuters) - A German court said it doubted that the German state's monopoly on sports betting was legal ahead of a planned relaxation of the country's stringent gambling laws.
The state of Hesse's administrative court based its doubts on the fact that the German government had reacted insufficiently to the immense growth of gambling offers in areas other than sports betting, particularly in amusement arcades, and that regulators had so far not objected to aggressive advertising by the state-run lottery.
The statement was part of a ruling dated Aug. 9 and published on Wednesday in which the court overturned a decision to stop an unnamed German company from brokering sports bets for a Malta-based partner company while an appeal was pending.
"There was no indication of a public interest in the ban taking effect immediately because ... a so-called concession model will be tested in coming years that will also make it legal for private companies to broker sports bets," the court said.
Germany's 16 states have an iron grip on the gambling market, although they are awarding seven nationwide licences for sports betting companies from next year.
Third-party companies such as betting firms, including Bwin.party , have criticised the states' plans as anti-competitive.
The largely illegal German sports betting market is estimated to be worth about 5 billion euros ($7.2 billion). (Editing by Erica Billingham and Jon Loades-Carter)