Historically, Germany and the UK have taken a markedly differing approach to the regulation of the use of online casinos for their citizens. In Germany, regulation of land casinos is decentralised and the responsibility of regional authorities.
Online gambling was completely banned, although sports betting licenses could be issued. Elsewhere in the country, except for the northern state of Schleswig-Holstein, a total ban on online casinos was in effect.
This state of affairs was in sharp contrast to the UK, where the authorities have built a tightly regulated but accessible domestic online gaming market. Although changes have been made in the intervening years, current legislation is still largely based on the principles of the 2005 Gambling Act that established the UK Gambling Commission as the regulator and license issuer for private providers.
Both the UK and Germany are updating their gambling regulations in 2021. Germany’s changes are far-reaching, bringing them more in line with the UK and with other EU member states, and establishing an oversight body equivalent to the UKGC. Meanwhile, the UK awaits the report from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport based on a review of the current law. A new Gambling Bill is expected before the end of the year. In this article, we take a look at various aspects of the new German legislation, and compare it to the UK approach.
- UK currently does not impose limits on how much players can deposit in a casino account.
- Germany will limit customer deposits to €1,000 per month across all accounts.
An issue that has long been debated in the UK, and one that is certain to be addressed in any new legislation, is that of deposit limits. At present these can be imposed by casinos at their discretion, but there is no provision for universal limits across all providers. A recent report by a think-tank for public policy called for a ‘soft’ deposit cap of £100 per month – that is, it can be increased if a player can prove that they can afford to gamble more than this.
In Germany, the new State Treaty on Gambling includes a clause that limits monthly deposits to €1,000. High rollers may still have the chance to increase that to €10,000, but this must be determined on a case-by case basis. The operator is required to conduct the required checks for affordability. 1% of customers are permitted to be extra-high rollers with a monthly limit of €30,000 – if they do not lose more than 20% of their deposited funds. Since German deposit limit is not imposed at the payment processor level, but it is enforced by the provider, switching payment methods will not be of use for those who want to avoid the limit, even with prepaid card types of payment.
- UK has no limit on bonus value but imposes thorough and detailed rules on fair use.
- Germany will limit bonus value to €100 annually.
The German treaty comes down hard on bonuses, limiting providers to a maximum of €100 bonus per customer annually. It will be interesting to see how casinos respond to this restriction; some creative solutions are expected. Another clause prohibits bonuses from being used as an incentive for self-excluded players to reactivate their account.
While the UK does not limit the value of a bonus, it has extensive specific legislation regarding transparency and fair use. Unlike many countries, the UK requires casinos to keep a player’s deposited money separate to the bonus funds, and players must be able to access and withdraw their own money whether or not they have played through their bonus.
- UK has no limit on spin value for slots.
- In the UK, each spin must be 2.5 seconds long or more.
- Both countries have rule that players cannot play two or more slots at the same time.
- Germany will limit spin value to €1.
- Each slot game spin in Germany must be 5 seconds long.
- New German treaty covers slots, poker and sports only – no live or RNG table games.
- No in-game betting for sports.
The UK has no current restrictions on how much can be staked on a single spin of a slot game. This could also change when new legislation comes in, as there have been calls for a £2 cap to bring it in line with the maximum for fixed odds betting terminals. The UK has done away with so-called turbo spins features, and each slot spin must last a minimum of 2.5 seconds.
The German approach is much stricter, limiting each spin to no more than €1 in value, with each spin lasting at least 5 seconds. The legislation also does not permit most table games or live online casinos, and live betting in sports will not be allowed.
- UK does not permit credit card payments to online gambling accounts.
- Germany allows only three methods, bans all e-wallets and prepaid cards.
The UK’s ban on credit cards to fund casino accounts also applies to any e-wallet or similar service that can be topped up using a credit card. How well this rule is imposed is less easy to assess. In contrast, Germany are extremely prescriptive over permitted payment methods, allowing only direct debit, direct bank transfer or a named payment card. Since they already have strict deposit limits, the primary concern regarding payment methods is player identity verification.
Can UK players play in EU casinos?
Technically speaking, many of the online casino sites that operate in the UK are EU casinos. So long as they hold a license from the UKGC, then players from the UK are permitted to use them. Some unlicensed sites may still offer their services, but they are operating outside the law, and so players have no protections. Visitors from the UK to the EU are of course free to visit and play at a casino establishment.
How much do UK players spend on gambling compared to German players?
The gross gambling revenue of Germany is higher than that of the UK – around €18 billion compared to €16 billion in 2019 – although adjusted per capita British people spend a little more. Generally speaking, the Brits and the Germans are quite similar in their gambling habits. A regulated market seems to be working for the UK, and is bringing in a lot of tax revenue. At the moment, a lot of Germans are using online casino sites based elsewhere. It is hoped that the new legislation will entice German players to sign up at a regulated German site.