'Dramatic Developments' on the German Front

2 May 2005

After several months of action in the Dutch courts, the battlefield for the European cross-border gambling war appears to have shifted to Germany, at least for the moment. According to Martin Arendts, a German lawyer specializing in gambling, "Quite dramatic legal developments in Germany are on the way."

The Federal Constitutional Court (Bundesverfassungsgericht) decided last week in summary proceedings that local authorities are not allowed to close betting shops (on the basis that they are illegally collecting bets for foreign operators) until a final decision on the matter is announced.

The court argued that under community law (in reference to the Gambelli decision), it is at least questionable as to whether the current legal situation can be upheld.

"The Constitutional Court has earlier announced that it will conduct a 'comprehensive clarification of the legal situation' with regard to the provision of sports betting in a decision expected for June 2005." Arendts explained. "This policy decision will be resolved in the constitutional complaint proceedings 1 BvR 1054/01, which have already been pending for several years.

"Apart from that, we have finally found a German court (in several unfair competition claims brought by the state operator Westlotto) willing to bring a German case to the European Court of Justice. In these cases, not only bets, but also casino games are relevant."

Above that, the German Soccer League (DFL) and the German Soccer Association (DFB) decided during an extraordinary meeting last week to launch their own soccer betting products in the 2006/07 season. Of the 253 members of the German Soccer Parliament present, only 15 people voted against the proposal. Additionally, nine abstentions were counted.

The German Soccer Association has contracts with the Oddset sports betting organization of Germany; one such contract is the co-financing of the World Cup Football tournament to be held next year in Germany.

"German football is not ungrateful," explained DFB President Dr. Theo Zwanziger, "but it has the right to make strategic decisions for the time after the World Cup in 2006. We should not have a bad conscience and we will not break contracts; however, we want to have a significant market share of sports betting."

The German Federal Constitutional Court in Karsruhe is expected to make a decision this year on the legality of the betting monopoly in Germany. If the court decides to liberalize the betting market, the DFB will try to agree to a common operation with Oddset. If they cannot come to terms, the DFB will protect the league playing schemes by copyright, and operators will purchase yearly licenses from the DFB.

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.