A Decisive Verdict for German Sports Betting?

7 March 2006

The press department for the Bundesverfassungsgericht (the First Senate of the Federal Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe, Germany) has announced that the verdict in the decisive sports betting case regarding the German sports betting monopoly will be announced on March 28.

The plaintiff, Irene Katzinger-Göth, desired a gambling license for sports betting that is not only restricted to horse races, and she took action against the free state of Bavaria in 1998. The Administrative Court of Munich, Appellation Court of Bavaria and the Administrative court dismissed the action, and she brought the complaint to the Bundesverfassungsgericht in 2001.

The decision will determine the future of the odd-set sports betting monopoly in Germany.

After the hearing of the Constitutional Court on Nov. 8, eight judges were tasked to take a very important step for the European gambling industry. At stake is whether the state will continue to shield the state monopolies or open up free gambling trade.

Many German, English and Scandinavian bookmakers are already in the starting blocks awaiting their shot, and their future hinges on the distribution of starting permits.

The big question is whether the necessary legislation will be adapted in time for the start of World Cup soccer, and it should not be forgotten that the German states, via their sports betting monopolies, are directly co-financing the organization of the tournament.

How Will the Court Rule?

Martin Arendts, the well informed lawyer concerning German gambling, says that several theoretical outcomes exist

"The court might confirm the status quo, effectively denying Ms. Katzinger-Göth the license," Arendts explained. "Considering the remarks of the judges at the oral hearing (and the simple fact that there was an oral hearing), this is very unlikely."

On the other hand, he said, the court might adjudicate that the relevant state law is unconstitutional and, therefore, null and void.

"That would mean that there are, at least for the time being, no restrictions at all," Arendts said. "This result, however, is also very unlikely. The state act in question is only the Bayerisches Staatslotteriegesetz (Bavarian State Lottery Act), as Ms. Katzinger-Göth is from Munich.

"From a procedural point of view, you also have to bear in mind that the case is about a constitutional complaint against a decision of the Federal Administrative Court (Bundesverwaltungsgericht). Apart from that, the court really seemed to concentrate on problem gambling. It also emphasized consumer protection. So, the court will not assert any kind of 'Wild West' (no rules at all) with regard to gaming.

"This leads to the conclusion that the result will be something in between these two extremes. The court might therefore rule that a state monopoly for gambling is unconstitutional. At the same time it, will affirm safeguards against problem gambling and fraud. My expectation is that the court might elaborate criteria how sports betting should be regulated in a constitutional manner. This would mean that the German states will have a year or so to legislate new acts for sports betting."

Rob van der Gaast has a background in sports journalism. He worked for over seven years as the head of sports for Dutch National Radio and has developed new concepts for the TV and the gambling industry. Now he operates from Istanbul as an independent gambling research analyst. He specializes in European gambling matters and in privatizations of gambling operators. Rob has contributed to IGN since Jul 09, 2001.