German Concern: Bet365 Closes German-Facing Operations Amid Regulatory Uncertainty
Despite breaking profit (and CEO salary) records just a few weeks ago, Bet365 announced this week it’s closing its German-fronted online casino before the end of the year.
The UK-based operator reportedly told all its affiliate marketers that only its sports betting operation would continue from January 1, 2020. They added that “any promotion of Bet365’s non-sports-related products in German” should be removed before the New Year begins.
However, players in Austria and other nearby markets shouldn’t worry, as the company assured affiliates its Austrian-facing casino would remain open for the foreseeable future.
This announcement from Bet365 is most likely a response to the new federal gambling treaty that is coming into force in January. Under this law, sports betting operators are required to register for a license for just one year—until January 2021. This is the date by which the government hopes to have fully defined and prepared more permanent legislation.
However, this temporary setup has proved unpopular with casino operators. Some of Germany’s 16 states have not received a single application for a license since the new policy was announced back in April.
The deal’s stringent terms, which include no in-play betting, no casino products, and strict monthly limits for all customers were certainly a factor.
The kicker is Germany’s poor record regarding fighting online gambling companies in the European Courts. The European Council even issued a so-called ‘blue letter’ to each German state considering law changes.
Specifically aimed at legislators in the province of Hesse, the letter was essentially a warning to local lawmakers that the Union considers these laws to be unsuitably flawed. Similar proposals in 2017 also saw concerns from the Council, which is determined to keep gambling legislation across Europe as consistent as possible.
“Liable to Prosecution”
These statements from the EU don’t seem to have affected the zeal of local government figures in the country. Just this August, the Darmstadt Regional Council, which was elected to deal with Germany’s sports betting laws, told reporters that “if a license application is not submitted to the Darmstadt Regional Council [DRC], we will immediately prohibit illegal operations.”
Peter Beuth, the Minister of the Interior, reinforced this bullish statement in November. He warned that unlicensed operators “could be liable for prosecution.”
It seems like Bet365’s is hedging its bets. Whilst not (as of yet) willing to apply for a restrictive temporary license, the company is also not fully risking the regulator’s wrath by offering casino services without one.
It’s possible that they expect to be able to challenge any sanctions from DRC in higher-up European courts, or they may just be waiting for clarification on the incoming 2021 legislation for applying.
Either way, we’ll keep you updated on this story as it develops over the coming few months of the new year.