What's Next for the German Football Betting Market?

12 May 2005

The German Football League, Deutsche Fußball Liga GmbH (DFL), and the German Football Association, Deutscher Fußball-Bund (DFB), are consolidating their plans for their own football bets, putting the 2006/2007 season under the spotlight.

For months the private sports betting providers and the state regulatory authorities have been eagerly anticipating the decision of the Federal Constitutional Court relating to the compatibility of the German restrictions on sports betting and gambling. (See Betting-Law-News 01/05 at: www.betting-law.com)

The officers of the DFL (which is responsible for the operative business of German licensed football and is subsidiary to the DFB) and the DFB came together in Mainz on April 28 for an extraordinary meeting (DFB-Bundestag) to press ahead with their betting plans. There is no doubt that the "gold-digger mentality" is prevailing among the DFL and DFB, such that concerns relating to the function of the state sports betting provider ODDSET are being arduously ignored.

Dietlind Weiland, the spokesperson for the Federal Constitutional Court (BVerfG), explained that whether the court would reach its decision before or after the summer break in August could not be planned, but the DFL and the DFB see the time as ripe to prepare the way for their own sports betting operations.

DFL Vice President Wolfgang Holzhäuser frankly admitted wanting to "gain a share of the earnings too," although his legal adviser has already recognized that the introduction of their own sports bets would not be possible with the current legal situation and that the concept depends on the liberalization of the betting market through a corresponding decision of the Federal Constitutional Court. Nevertheless, concrete plans were presented at the DFB-Bundestag, and at the end of the session, the members of the DFB and the DFL voted in favor of applying for a state license to that would allow them to bring their own sports bets onto the market starting with the 2006/07 season.

And so the DFB (and the DFL) have joined the circle of private sports betting providers that have already spent a lengthy period of time struggling for the liberalization of the private gaming and sports betting market (partly judicially). The "major players in the sports betting market" have recognized from the Federal Constitutional Court's announcement of a seminal decision that it intends to bring about a reorganization of the sports betting market. The Handelsblatt newspaper reported on April 27:

[The DFB] wishes to resolve to apply for a state betting licence at the extraordinary general meeting of the Bundestag (Lower House of the German Parliament).

"I would assume that this is meant seriously,” said betting law expert Hambach. At this time such a licence is not legally possible, “but the DFB seems to be also expecting an opening up of the market by a Federal Constitutional Court decision." And if that happens, Hambach believes “there will suddenly be a very complicated situation."

Of course, it is not only because of the high revenue expected from this new source of income that the association and the league are anticipating organizing their own sports bets; rather, they also claim that, through the introduction of sports bets, they will be able to take on a control function to prevent future scandals. The DFB's intention to compete with the state sports betting provider ODDSET is certainly understandable given the volume of three billion euro on the German betting market.

Furthermore, the DFL is planning (as reported in the newspaper Frankfurter Rundschau on April 26) to take a further step: Apparently future fixture lists are to be copyrighted by the DFL--an attempt to earn even more money through licensing fees. As already mentioned, the "gold-digger mentality" reigns in German football.

It is of considerable importance that the European Court of Justice had to decide in November 2004 whether databases on football games and horse races come within the scope of EC Directive 96/9EG. The ECJ decided, on Nov. 9 that "sui generis database protection" can only apply to databases that require considerable qualitative and quantitative investment to examine their contents or to display such contents. In this, the ECJ decided that neither football fixtures lists nor a form of race-horse database qualified for copyright protection as a database.

The Handelsblatt reported on April 27 that alongside the "major figures" in German football, the media is planning a further rush into the sports betting market. The Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper reported that the German Sport Television Channel (Deutsche Sportfernsehen, DSF), for example, wishes to provide their own sports bets this year.

All in all, the liberalization of the German sports betting market is in sight. Hopefully this appearance is not deceptive.

Dr. Wulf Hambach is a partner of the Hambach & Hambach Law Firm (www.betting-law.com) and an attorney at the Munich Bar. The client-base of Hambach & Hambach, which specializes in European and international gaming law, mainly consists of European and International gaming companies that are seeking to gain access to (or who are already active on) the German gaming market. He can be reached by telephone at +49 (0) 89 / 38 99 75 - 50 or by e-mail at info@ra-hambach.com.