Published: July 20, 2022

Gemeinsame Glücksspielbehörde der Länder (AöR): German Gambling Regulator Asks ISPs to Block Illegal iGaming Websites

The GGL's social mission is to combat illegal gambling in order to protect gamblers and minors from gambling and betting addiction and game manipulation. One of several tools used to combat illegal gambling is IP blocking.

In a letter to all Internet service providers, GGL announced that the authority would request the blocking of illegal gambling offers. Network blocking/IP blocking is an enforcement instrument that is used when unauthorized gambling providers do not stop their illegal gambling offer despite a prohibition order. The network blocking can be implemented either informally in cooperative cooperation or within the framework of administrative procedures.

The purpose of the information letter from the authority was to make Internet service providers aware of the work of the GGL and to inform them that they were taking over responsibility for combating illegal gambling on the Internet and advertising it on July 1, 2022. On the other hand, the authority specifically offered to implement the network blocks through direct communication between the GGL and the Internet service providers as a first step instead of the formal administrative procedure.

Since the authority received a number of inquiries about this, the most important questions and answers on the subject are summarized below:

  1. Why did the GGL offer direct communication between the GGL and the internet service providers instead of the formal administrative procedure as a first step?

It is normal administrative action that authorities first offer the addressee to comply with a request in an informal process before the formal, fee-based administrative act is initiated. This has worked very well in the past.

The GGL pursues a cooperative approach with discussions at eye level. This does not mean that a provider should carry out blocking "on demand", but that the GGL explains to the person concerned the legal basis from which his obligation arises, as well as the previous action against the illegal gambling provider. In addition, the various options for implementing the lock are discussed. 

Internet service providers are of course free to reject this offer and only act within the framework of a formal administrative procedure. This administrative act can be subject to judicial review.

If the Internet service provider then fails to comply with the formal request to block an illegal gambling offer from the network, GGL can impose a correspondingly threatened penalty payment, which is also based on the economic capacity of the addressee and can amount to up to €500,000. 

  1. When and why are network blocks/IP blocking used?

 The 2021 State Treaty on Gambling provides for the enforcement instrument of network blocking/IP blocking of illegal gambling offers if unauthorized gambling providers do not comply with the formal prohibition order or if measures against them are not feasible or not promising.

The legal basis for the request for network blocks/IP blocking for illegal gambling providers is the State Treaty on Gambling (GlüStV) 2021. It was ratified by 16 state parliaments, which represent the entire German population, and standardized as state law. It envisages network blocking as a permissible means of fighting illegal gambling. In other neighboring European countries, network blocking is used as an adequate means of combating illegal gambling.

The aim is to protect gamblers and minors from gambling addiction and game-fixing by only allowing gambling offers on the Internet that comply with the requirements of the GlüStV 2021.  

  1. What is the concrete legal basis for the IP blocking/network blocking measures by GGL?

In addition to the GlüStV 2021, the legal basis is also the law on public safety and order of the state of Saxony-Anhalt (SOG LSA).

GlüStV 2021 § 9 Para. 1 S. 3 No. 5 states that after prior notification of unauthorized gambling offers, measures to block these offers must be taken against service providers responsible within the meaning of §§ 8 to 10 of the Telemedia Act , in particular access brokers and registrars, if measures against an organizer or broker of this game of chance prove to be unfeasible or unpromising. These measures can also be taken if the unauthorized gambling offer is inextricably linked to other content.

The access brokers (= access providers or Internet service providers) can then be requested to block the (Internet) access to the gambling offers that they have mediated if the legal requirements are met.

  1. What is the legal basis for the penalty payment?

Legal basis for the threat and determination of fines are §§ 54, 56, 59 (SOG LSA). Thereafter, fines of up to €500,000 can be imposed. This is state law, which applies in accordance with Section 27a (3) GlüStV 2021.

How is the amount of the fine calculated?

The calculation of the fines to be determined individually takes into account economically relevant factors, such as the financial capacity of an addressee.

  1. What is the legal basis for administrative costs?

The legal basis for the collection of administrative costs results from Section 9a Paragraph 4 Clauses 6 and 7 GlüStV 2021 in conjunction with Sections 1 Paragraph 1 Clause 1, 5 Paragraph 1, 14 Administrative Costs Act of the State of Saxony-Anhalt (VwKostG LSA). The fee framework results directly from Section 9a (4) GlüStV 2021. 

  1. Are network blocks/IP blocking appropriate, suitable and legally sound?

 Digital freedom rights are a valuable asset that must be protected. We are aware that a network block represents an encroachment on the fundamental rights of providers, providers and users. The GGL's social mission is to combat illegal gambling in order to protect gamblers and minors from gambling and betting addiction and game manipulation. Against this background, according to our examination, these interventions are justified and therefore permissible. They meet the proportionality requirements. We have also taken into account the relevant European regulations, in particular freedom of service and freedom of establishment and the requirements for network neutrality. Here, too, we come to the conclusion that these are not violated by blocking the illegal offers. The proposal we are making does not preclude a judicial review of our views. Those affected can have their rights reviewed by a court. 

  1. What does the proposed cooperation look like in concrete terms?

GGL is working towards finding a solution that is as pragmatic as possible for all parties. The authority will develop a concrete procedure together with the Internet service providers. The specific providers of illegal gambling are communicated to the Internet service providers in a suitable manner, so that technical implementation is made possible with the least possible effort for the Internet service provider.

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