“This offer is only valid for persons with an address and habitual residency in Schleswig-Holstein.”
Some of you may have already noticed this sentence in commercials for online casinos. What is it all about? Up to now, online gambling in Germany has been illegal for the most part. Schleswig-Holstein alone is taking a special path.
This will change with the entry into force of the State Treaty on the New Regulation of Gambling in Germany (“GlückStV 2021“). The State Treaty on Gambling 2021 provides for the most extensive legalisation of gambling. The new regulations are to come into force in the summer of this year.
In this article, we want to look at the impact of the legalisation of online gambling on payment transactions.
Situation so far – Bad luck at play, bad luck in court
The State Treaty on Gambling (“GlückStV“), which is currently still in force, provides in § 4 for a fundamental prohibition of organising and brokering public games of chance on the internet.
Some participants in illegal online gambling therefore sued their payment service provider for repayment of amounts lost in the game. The argument: The payment service provider had a duty to monitor payments that could be related to gambling and was not allowed to execute payments in the context of illegal gambling. In its ruling of 6 February 2019 (19 U 793/18), the OLG Munich decided that “gambling without remorse” should not be possible. According to the ruling, a bank is entitled to the so-called reimbursement of expenses if it duly executes the payment instructions of the credit card holder, even if the expenses paid according to the order are related to unauthorised online gambling. This means that the bank can demand reimbursement from its customer for the amount it pays out to the gambling provider. This is because the bank has no duty to check or even warn the customer in order to protect and deter him from possibly illegal payment transactions.
However, payment service providers are not off the hook, because they are not allowed to have gambling providers as customers who offer illegal gambling. In the recent past, the authorities have also taken action against payment service providers for facilitating payments for online gambling, because actions against payment service providers were often easier to enforce than against gambling providers not based in Germany or the EU.
Changes through the State Treaty on Gambling 2021 – What will be allowed?
The current ban on organising and brokering public games of chance is to give way to a permit requirement. According to Section 4 (1) GlückStV 2021, public games of chance may be organised or brokered with the permission of the competent authority of the respective state.
Section 4 (4) GlückStV 2021 lists the activities in connection with online gambling, i.e. gambling on the internet, for which a permit may be granted. These are:
- own sales and the brokerage of lotteries,
- the organisation, brokerage and own distribution of sports betting and horse betting, and
- the organisation and self-distribution of online casino games, virtual slot games and online poker.
Pursuant to Section 4 (4) sentence 2 GlückStV 2021, this list is exhaustive, so that organising and brokering other types of public games of chance on the internet remains prohibited. For example, “lottery bets” and “secondary lotteries”, i.e. lotteries in which the player bets with a provider that his numbers will be drawn in the original “LOTTO 6aus49“, remain prohibited. The brokering of online casino games, virtual slot machine games and online poker also remains prohibited.
Changes due to the State Treaty on Gambling 2021 – gambling law requirements for payments
In terms of gambling law, Section 6b (4) GlückStV 2021 must be observed in particular, according to which payments by the player to or from a player account with the organiser can only be made (i) from a payment account pursuant to Section 1 (17) ZAG, which (ii) has been established in the name of the player with (iii) an obligated party pursuant to Section 2 (1) Nos. 1 and 3 GwG. Deposits or withdrawals via anonymous means of payment are not possible in distance selling. Thus, cash payments or topping up the player’s account by means of an anonymous voucher, for example, are not permitted.
The gambling provider must therefore carry out a comparison of the identity of the player and the account holder. For this purpose, they must implement a process that enables them to carry out an identity comparison of the account holder and the player. A mere random check of the payments is not sufficient according to the AuA. The gambling operator must obtain the account holder’s identity data for the reconciliation.
Changes due to the State Treaty on Gambling 2021 – anti-money laundering requirements for payments
Section 16 (4) sentence 1 AMLA, which is already in force, imposes very similar requirements. These requirements must be met in addition to the requirements from the GlückStV 2021.
Section 16 (4) sentence 1 no. 1 AMLA also lists the following payment methods that are permitted for deposits into a player account:
- by means of a direct debit,
- by means of a bank transfer,
- by means of a payment card issued in the name of the player.
The list is exhaustive, so other payment methods are excluded for transactions by the player to the player account.
The State Treaty on Gambling 2021 is to be ratified by the federal states by March 2021. Entry into force is planned for 1 July 2021.
In the context of the legalisation of online gambling, some follow-up questions arise, such as the question of the permissibility of the use of accounts with payment providers located not in Germany but in a different member state of the EU. We will observe the developments and keep you posted on PayTechLaw.
Cover picture: Copyright © Adobe Stock / Aliaksandr Marko