Published: December 15, 2019

German state of Hesse has claimed no operator has filed an application for a federal sports betting licence

  • Zero operators have applied for Hessian licensing ahead of January 1, 2020 deadline
  • Hesse's Minister of the Interior warns of prosecutions for unlicensed gambling and advertising
  • Peter Bueth decries failure of federal government to finalize updated gambling regulatory plans

Operators yet to file as 2020 rollout loomsreg

The Ministry of the Interior and Sports for the German State of Hesse has chided sports betting operators serving Hessian citizens for failing, to date, to apply for licensing to provide those services in the state.

Just weeks before a planned January 1, 2020 regulatory rollout, not a single operator has filed a license application.

Bueth declared his concern to the Parliament over the lack of operator participation to date

Hesse’s Parliament received news of the situation on November 11 from Interior and Sports Minister Peter Bueth. Bueth declared his concern to the Parliament over the lack of operator participation to date. That body has been debating last-minute amendments to the already-approved Hessian Gambling Act, which goes live in January.

The unsettled situation underscores the continuing regulatory mess in Germany at both the federal and state level. New federal gambling laws have faced constitutional challenges while individual states, including Hesse, have struggled toward regulation as well.

Warning to operators

Bueth warned that the current grace period being extended to Hesse-facing operators will soon end.

Speaking before the Parliament, but to the operators, Bueth said: “As soon as the new year has started, the clock is ticking for every sportsbook provider in Hesse. Although the Regional Council of Darmstadt has been extensively informed and has been able to accept permits for months, no provider has yet submitted such a permit. I warn therefore urgently: Each sports betting offer is from January 2020 subject to authorization and there is no more toleration.”

the state will be “forced to act” and unlicensed operators will be liable to prosecution

Bueth also noted that Hesse’s authorities plan to “consistently prohibit” all illegal offers. He also made special point to note advertising from sportsbook providers, whether in media or live, such as at soccer venues. Bueth also declared that the state will be “forced to act” and unlicensed operators will be liable to prosecution.

Short-term measure

One complication hampering the situation is that the planned enactment of the Hessian Gambling Law is designed as a short-term solution. When Germany’s new national gambling law is finalized and survives legal challenge, it will supercede many of the state’s laws.

Germany has attempted to enact new nationwide gambling and licensing rules since 2012. However, its initial flawed licensing plans were challenged by operators and required extensive reworking. The process is still ongoing.

Hessian state officials have been among the most proactive in modernizing licensing rules at that level, while also urging Germany’s federal legislature to finish the process. Meanwhile, the European Commission recently expressed its doubts about Germany’s latest stopgap plans at a federal level.

Bueth declared that the ongoing federal gridlock was an “intolerable condition,” in that German citizens — including those in Hesse — were still left without consumer protections. Germany’s planned national framework includes programs for preventing addictive and underage gambling but remains in limbo pending legislative approval.

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