Headache for German-Facing Online Casinos and Customers as VISA Declines Payments

May 29, 2020 3 min read
by Thomas Wolf

German market online casinos were left scrambling earlier this week when reports emerged that international card payment provider VISA had told its partner banks to stop accepting transactions from online gambling firms in the country.

Investigative journalists from NDR confirmed with a VISA spokesman that this is the case. They also reported that many German-oriented sites had already removed references to VISA from their site.

This comes after German authorities reportedly leaned on VISA to make the move. Lawmakers in the European market have been tightening restrictions on what they now see as illegal operators, as their regulated market is supposed to start in July 2021.  

visa declines german casino customers

In 2019, the government cracked down on PayPal transactions from German-facing sites. PayPal changed its rules to only allow gambling transactions in territories where it is fully legal, ruling out every German state but Schleswig-Holstein.

In the latest development, ministers from the Lower Saxony Ministry of the Interior have contacted a further 19 payment providers—as yet officially unidentified.

However, one of these providers was almost certainly VISA, the California-based payment provider that handles over $6 trillion worth of transactions per year.

Across the Board

VISA told its German facing online casino clients that they need to stop offering these card payments to customers—or lose access to VISA in all their other markets.

So far, big brands BWin and Tipico have been the highest-profile sites to make changes. However, changes were not the same across the board.

Tipico completely removed VISA from its site, with not even the logo present in the footer anymore. B-Win, on the other hand, simply blocked VISA as a method for depositing in its sports betting section and has reportedly emailed customers about this new restriction.

Rigid Rules

Representatives of both casinos told NDR reporters that they felt these new restrictions were unfair under current European Union laws—and they wouldn’t be the first.

Germany’s ambitions for a statewide legal online gambling market have been blocked at many turns by various operators who have been contesting some of the proposed rulings in European courts.

For example, just last month, an Austrian bookmaker won a case against state regulators on the grounds that their proposed license application process wasn’t clear enough.

Among other conditions, regulators want the new market to have a €1 ($1.1) cap on slot wagers. They also want players to have to make two separate accounts for each vertical if they want to play at a combined sportsbook and casino site.

“This is a rigid set of rules (…) which will neither help player protection nor lead to squeezing the black market”

Mathias Dahms – Head of the German Sports Betting Association

All that discussion was, of course, before the onset of the coronavirus pandemic that shut down physical casinos and betting shops across Germany and canceled all sports.

Google registered more German searches for “online casino” during the peak of the lockdown in March than had ever been recorded before.

This obviously bought online gambling back into the public and regulatory discussion with renewed intensity, and lawmakers across Europe seized the moment to introduce tighter restrictions.

Whether these new measures in Germany will stick remains to be seen, but it looks that way. We’ll keep you updated on this story—and many others from around the world—as it develops. 

Author

Thomas Wolf

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