Germany’s GGL targets Lottoland in first enforcement campaigns

The Leadership of Gluecksspiel (GGL) – the new federal agency for German gambling has initiated its first enforcement campaign “to block the offers of ineligible lottery betting operators”.

The campaign was disclosed on Friday, during a digital press conference hosted by GGL co-leadership of Ronald Benter and Benjamin Schwanke, who outlined the regulator’s initial duties and measures available to safeguard “German gambling’s legal offer’.

Addressing Lottoland’s activities, the GGL stated that the Gibraltar-based operator had been ‘offering illegal gambling for years’ to German consumers, by allowing betters to place a wager on the outcome of a lottery draw instead of participating in the actual draw itself.

“These offers cannot be permitted on the basis of the State Treaty on Gambling and have therefore already been prohibited,” the GGL explained.

“However, you can still be reached online. For this reason, the first legal steps taken by the joint gaming authority of the federal states were aimed at stopping the Lottoland offers through the administrative procedure for IP blocking.”

Bets could be placed via the www.lottoland.com, www.lottohelden.de and www.lottohelden.com websites, which have now been subject to IP blocks by the new regulator.

These measures were implemented against Lottoland and Lotthelden at the beginning of the month, following similar bans in other countries, and saw internet providers requested to block the firm’s webpages.

The GGL stressed that it has the authority to impose ‘sensitive penalties’ against internet providers should they not comply with the regulatory request to ensure the measure can be effectively implemented. 

Formed as a result of the Fourth Interstate Gambling Treaty (GlüNeuRStv), the GGL was recently put under pressure by the German Sports Betting Association (DSMV) to immediately take action against ‘unlicensed threats’ targeting German bettors.

Explaining the GGL’s approach towards illegal gambling in Germany, Benter and Schwanke stated that the body’s strategy is to ensure that illicit online activity ‘is not worthwhile in the long term’ for operators involved. 

The GGL’s leadership duo, declared the regulatory goal to achieve “visible results against the black-market in the next six months.”

Enforcement procedures will be prioritised by information received from the regulator’s “whistle-blower system” – providing the agency with direct insights on unlicensed operators and their advertising campaigns.

“For us, the priority in combating the black market is enforcement against providers who are not willing to regulate,” Schwanke commented. 

“We will remove players from the market who do not comply with the rules of the State Treaty on Gambling, who have not applied for a licence or who have been rejected. Criteria for prioritisation in implementation include market size, awareness and advertising behaviour/volumes.”

In addition to IP blocking the regulator will also enact payment blocking, report to tax authorities and pursue criminal charges, the latter requiring cooperation with the legal authorities of Saxony-Anhalt – the German lander charged with political oversight of the GlüNeuRStv regime. 

This collaborative approach would see the GGL ‘pass on its market knowledge of providers and their corporate affiliations’ to the state public prosecutor’s office, which – along with the police – holds ultimate responsibility for directing criminal charges. 

Of significance, Benter and Schwanke have called for a ‘special public prosecutor office’ to be established in Halle, tasked with overseeing illegal gambling prosecutions that will target the management of unlicensed operators.

Lastly, the regulator has detailed plans for further development of payment blocking abilities, building on the previous role of the Lower Saxony Ministry of the Interior with a ‘concentration of personnel, responsibilities and knowledge’.

Schwanke added: “We are interested in a cooperative cooperation with the payment service providers, but we can also initiate appropriate administrative procedures if the payment service provider does not meet its obligations, and with the penalty payment and administrative offence proceedings and criminal proceedings we have effective instruments for enforcing the order.”

Established six months ahead of schedule, the GGLs regulatory foundation has been welcomed by market stakeholders.  

However taking charge of Germany’s unloved GlüNeuRStv regime, the GGL faces a raft of complex challenges to related to fixing the market’s visible shortcomings related to  licensing application, product restrictions, advertising rules, compliance demands/costs and terms of competition against land-based incumbents. 

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