What makes online gambling so controversial

Online instead of slot machinesForbidden gambling in times of Corona

As early as the beginning of May, the Saarland, a week before most other federal states, allows the game libraries to reopen.

The industry has prepared for the necessary hygiene measures, explains Christian Antz. He heads the Saarland Association of Vending Machines. When visiting one of his gambling halls, he wears a mask, just like his guests, but that's not all: "The requirements are not limited. For example: hand disinfection, device disinfection, so the device is cleaned after each guest. And one per 20 square meters Customer. Seven customers are allowed to come at the same time and when the eighth one comes, we have to send him away from the door, he has to wait until one of the seven leaves. "

With the exception of a handful of technicians and office workers, the family business had sent most of its workforce on short-time work. Most of his employees worked full time, like Manuela Fuchs. She has been running the Spielothek in Sulzbach for ten years and can assess who will come back or who will stay away. "Of course they stay away a bit. Definitely during the Corona period. We couldn't do anything. But let's hope that we can get in touch again and that the others will come back from before."

Tremendous increase in gambling on the net

Many arcade operators hope so. 'Rien ne va plus' - nothing works anymore, it was said for weeks for casinos and amusement arcades throughout Germany. They were - and in some cases still are - closed due to corona. Gambling on the net has essentially benefited from this. Unfortunately, the increase in online gaming cannot be measured in terms of actual sales, says Georg Stecker, spokesman for the association of arcade operators in Germany. Because the providers of illegal online casino games are mostly at home abroad. However, the advertising for it has increased enormously: "We estimate that the advertising sales in the area of ​​illegal online casinos have increased by at least half compared to the previous year." The representative of the arcade operators suspects that this certainly does not happen for no reason. "And anyone who makes such investments on this scale also wants to make a deal."

(Glenn Carstens Peters | Unsplash) Online gambling - psychologist warns of greater risk of addiction than visiting the casino
Online gambling should be allowed in Germany. As far as the risk of addiction is concerned, however, there is a difference to a visit to the casino, said the psychologist Werner Gross in the Dlf.

However, the sums involved cannot be clearly quantified: RTL, the largest private TV provider, announced on request that, according to its advertising time marketer Ad Alliance, the advertising business in Germany for online gaming is currently not changing have. The Sport-1 media group, on the other hand, told the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" that advertising sales for legal online poker and online casino games were well above plan in Corona times.

Jan Kleibrink from the Handelsblatt Research Institute believes that it is too early to conclusively assess possible special effects with regard to gambling advertising during the corona lockdown. In principle, however, an increase can be determined. "In the past few years it has increased massively, both in terms of promotional offerings for casino games and in terms of sports betting."

Gambling Guard: Players choose different paths

An increased turn by players to digital forms of play is not in itself a new phenomenon, but an expression of social development. The special Corona situation certainly promoted this, but not only led to the fact that players, so to speak, migrated one-to-one to the network for lack of opportunity, says Ilona Füchtenschnieder from the professional association for gambling addiction in Bielefeld. Rather, you observe various developments. "Once in the arcade area, there is a whole group of people who are amazed to find that they can manage quite well without an arcade and have made the decision to do so after the time it is closed. Often there are also some who do had already thought about restricting gambling or stopping it. And then there is another group that is feverishly waiting for the halls to reopen and others who wander into the Internet. "

The drug commissioner of the federal government, the CSU member of the Bundestag Daniela Ludwig, worries about this last group: "Corona formally forces people to stay at home and I see it with the greatest concern that betting providers are taking advantage of this situation Part of taking advantage of the loneliness of the people, promoting their illegal gambling so that they can occupy themselves. And that is why it is particularly true for advertising for online gambling, it is forbidden. It is extremely fatal if we see an expansion here now, because we have no control over what people play at home. "

Overview on the subject of coronavirus (imago / Rob Engelaar / Hollandse Hoogte)

Schleswig-Holstein's special approach to gambling

In other European countries such as Switzerland, the Netherlands or Spain, the authorities have reacted and with the exit restrictions also reduced advertising opportunities for online gambling. In Spain, where a new gambling law is to be passed in the autumn, advertising times will be cut to the night hours. In a press conference in April, Social Affairs Minister Pablo Iglesias justified the measure: "We will restrict advertising because the lockdown makes the protection of people who have problems with gambling addiction even more urgent."

The structure of online casino games is in many ways similar to that of classic slot machines, as can also be found in gaming libraries. Here and there is set and the rest of the action is left to chance. It is up to Schleswig-Holstein to advertise this at all. Since 2012, the country has been following a special path in gaming policy. It expressly welcomes providers such as "Wunderino", "Drückglück" or "Onlinecasino.de" and has issued licenses to the companies. Although only residents of Schleswig-Holstein are allowed to use this gambling offer, it is advertised nationwide. For addiction expert Ilona Füchtenschnieder a nuisance: "We have a country with 2.9 million inhabitants and the whole of Germany is being advertised for online casinos and it's all about attracting new customers and already now for the new ones Times provided. "

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Countries rely on state-regulated offers on the Internet

The new times will begin next summer. Provided that the state parliaments approve the new State Treaty on Gambling by then. In it, all federal states have agreed to allow online games of chance that were previously banned. After long discussions, the other federal states finally took Schleswig-Holstein as an example. In the future, everyone will rely on legal, state-regulated online offers in the interests of effective player and youth protection, says the head of the Kiel State Chancellery, Dirk Schrödter: "For us, the focus is on player and youth protection. To create a framework here to play under controlled conditions to be able to and to contain the escalating black market. "

Financial considerations to legalize sales so that the public sector can also benefit from their citizens' passion for gambling through taxes and duties would not have played a role in any of this, emphasizes Schrödter: "The financial argument is not a driving force for us to corresponding changes in the regulatory framework to come. "

However, the gambling market, which is growing from year to year in Europe and worldwide, is about a lot of money. The tax authorities have access to stationary business in amusement arcades and in restaurants around the corner, for example. The spokesman for the board of the machine association, Georg Stecker, calculates that these facilities would generate considerable sums of money: "As a machine industry, we pay more than 2.5 billion in taxes and fees every year. And what is particularly interesting for the municipalities, more flows every year than a billion in amusement taxes in the municipalities. "

A 14 billion euro market in Germany

Overall, the gaming market in Germany amounts to around 14 billion euros per year. 80 percent of this volume is subject to state regulations such as lotteries or the machine industry. The remaining 20 percent are considered unregulated. This includes private sports betting and online casino games. Jan Kleibrink from the Handelsblatt Research Institute: "All in all, we in Germany have an amount of approximately two and a half to three billion euros in gaming revenue that is not hard to measure and is assumed to be around two and a half to three billion euros in this unregulated market every year."

Private sports betting providers are currently operating in a gray area. For some time now, the federal states have been planning to legalize sports betting. So far, however, they have failed to award the necessary concessions. The award procedure is repeatedly objected to and ends up in court. Most recently at the beginning of April, when the Darmstadt Administrative Court ruled that the procedure was not transparent.

Online casino games are also assigned to the gray, unregulated market because the providers often operate with a gaming license from another EU country that is not valid in Germany. This makes these gaming opportunities illegal. With gross gaming revenues of one billion euros annually, according to Kleibrink, these illegal online casino games represent a strong market segment. One that bypasses the German tax authorities. "As far as the online casino game is concerned, the fact is that the German tax authorities have no control over it."

(picture alliance / Markus Schreiber) Sports betting and online casinos - In paradise for gambling providers
Online gambling is banned in Germany, but the market is growing rapidly. The federal states have been arguing about regulation for years. The providers of sports betting or online casinos benefit from this - and so does organized crime.

New State Treaty on Gambling in the summer of 2021

With the new State Treaty on Gambling, the wild growth is to be ended and the hitherto illegal offers are to be converted into legal offers. Each federal state is then allowed to issue appropriate licenses. Because gambling remains a task for the federal states. Until the time comes and the new state treaty comes into force in the summer of 2021, online gambling will remain banned in 15 out of 16 federal states. And this ban also extends to advertising, as the Cologne Regional Court made clear in a judgment at the end of February. However, Schleswig-Holstein does not see itself under pressure to act, says the head of the Kiel State Chancellery, Dirk Schrödter: "First of all, as the State of Schleswig-Holstein, we opposed the tenor of the judgment at an early stage and comprehensively and well before the judgment that the judgment, especially from Cologne, has no direct effects on our country. "

Schleswig Holstein refers to ancillary provisions to which the corresponding licenses in Schleswig Holstein are bound. These are coordinated with general advertising principles and are therefore legal. And against providers who acted contrary to these requirements, the country will also take action, according to the state chancellery. Ilona Füchtenschnieder from the professional association Gambling Addiction accuses the Schleswig-Holstein gambling supervisory authority for negligence: "In other words, that you did not specify in the approval that you are not allowed to advertise in areas where online gambling is prohibited. I would have expected that - well, maybe not really expected from Schlewsig-Holstein's gambling policy. "

Saarland wants to sue against online advertising

The Saarland sees its own legal opinion confirmed by the judge's verdict from Cologne, says the deputy director of the state media authority, Jörg Ukrow. The state will therefore take legal action against the options offered by Schleswig-Holstein with regard to online games of chance and the advertising broadcast nationwide. "From our point of view it makes sense because, at least once, the things that happen in Schleswig-Holstein are not in accordance with the applicable law and we as an authority are initially required to apply the applicable law and not apply future law."

Ukrow is aware that things are in a state of flux, that some federal states are of the opinion that it is no longer worth prohibiting things that will be allowed in a year when the new State Treaty on Gambling comes into force. On the other hand, however, the massive advertising currently being observed in the sense of the Cologne Regional Court ruling requires a corresponding reaction. "From our point of view, this is an advertising approach that cannot be brought into line with the objectives of the State Treaty on Gambling as it currently exists, because we perceive this level of massive advertising to be insufficient for player protection and the avoidance of gambling addiction is enough, "says Ukrow.

Illegals use gaps between state media authorities and supervisors

Daniela Ludwig, the drug commissioner of the federal government, also shares this opinion: "That is why I turned to the interior ministers of the federal states, which are the highest gambling authorities, and I also wrote to state media authorities and the large TV companies to point out that Please keep a sensitive eye on it and not go into a gray or even illegal area of ​​the advertising. "

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However, a complaint by the German Association of Automatic Machines about the increasing advertising for online gaming was rejected by the directors of the state media authorities, stating that they could not intervene as long as the gaming supervisory authorities in the individual federal states were not active. What causes disappointment for the spokesman for the German Automatenverband, Georg Stecker: "You always have the feeling that the various institutions are pushing the buck to each other. So the state media authorities to the supervisors and the supervisors to the state media authorities and so on. And in this mixed situation, such people then go about their happy mischief. "

The head of the Kiel State Chancellery, Dirk Schrödter, defends Schleswig-Holstein's special route. Advertising must be allowed, he says: "It is important that we are allowed to refer to the legal offers, where games can be played under controlled conditions, through advertising. If we do not do that, the illegal game is a goal and door open. "

Forwarding to pages without player and youth protection

As of summer 2021, advertising will be allowed from nine in the evening until six in the morning, according to the new version of the State Treaty on Gaming. Until then, gambling advertising on television or the Internet is not allowed, at least nationwide. In order to circumvent the current nationwide advertising ban, which is in force with the exception of Schleswig-Holstein, advertising professionals use a warning - similar to drug advertising: "Ask your doctor or pharmacist about risks and side effects." The notice in the TV gambling advertising reads analogously: "The offer is only valid for people with residence or habitual abode in Schleswig-Holstein." The Saarland gambling authority doubts that this is sufficient. Jörg Uckrow: "In many cases this is not really noticeable just from the speed of speaking and it is also not sensibly perceptible from the question of how the whole thing is placed on the screen, and occasionally there is even no indication of this question."

In addition, players from other federal states would not be turned away if they romped around on the corresponding online pages but were automatically referred to European providers, says the representative of the German machine association Georg Stecker. This practice is extremely problematic: "Because they are forwarded to international sites where there is no player or youth protection."

A study by the Handelsblatt Research Institute has shown that potential players do not appreciate this disorder in the markets at all, but advocate clear regulations, says Jan Kleibrink: "We see today that opinion polls among players have shown that there is a great need That you are staying in the legal area. That many players who are currently playing in the illegal online offer sometimes do not even know that what they are playing is not legal. "

(picture alliance / dpa / Marcus Brandt) Main topic - gambling addiction
It can cost the house, the yard and friendships: excessive gambling in the casino, on slot machines, uncontrolled gambling in sports betting and on the Internet. With those affected - mostly young men - the urge to play becomes overpowering and the social environment is neglected.

"A lot of damage for society and for individuals"

The professional association for gambling addiction continues to advocate a general advertising ban. Ilona Füchtenschnieder believes that legal or illegal should not play a role, because the negative effects of gambling cannot be denied: "This is a so-called demeritic good that causes a great deal of damage to society and individuals. And it should We are making a U-turn here. With the tobacco advertising ban, we are finally ready to join other European countries and severely restrict tobacco advertising, and here it is now possible to advertise the very dangerous games of chance. "

Advertising and sponsorship for unauthorized games of chance will remain prohibited under the new State Treaty in the future. However, it will be difficult to control all offers on the net seamlessly, says the drug commissioner of the federal government, Daniela Ludwig: "The outliers are always the things on the Internet that we can never, never control through to the end It is all the more important that we talk about it openly, keep your hands off gambling, it is highly addictive, it costs you money, it costs you social contacts, please don't! "

According to the drug commissioner, advertising requirements, information and reporting structures as well as social concepts have been implemented with the local arcade operators in the interests of player protection. They are planned for the Internet, but the current situation shows that it is not easy to implement them in all their facets.