North Rhine-Westphalia opens to online gambling under federal regime

The Landtag of North Rhine-Westphalia has made the decision to open the German state to online casino operations, under the the Fourth Interstate Gambling Treaty (GlüNeuRStv).

Issuing an update on its website, the Landtag – the state assembly – revealed that five licences for online gaming will be distributed in Germany’s most populous federal state. 

Legislators have also detailed that the procedure for granting licences has been regulated, with measures for supervision and player protection included, as have the extent of taxes and duties which must be paid by online gaming operators.

In line with the requirements of the GlüNeuRStv regime, however, online gaming will only include roulette, blackjack and baccarat, with licence for poker and slot games yet to be approved. 

North Rhine Legislators explained that legal online casino titles are being legalised into to channel consumer demand towards a ‘permitted market’ and away from black market providers and/or offshore, unregulated firms. 

This, it argued, will provide protection against “”addictive game designs and advertising measures through regulatory requirements,” whilst also depriving the black market of its financial basis.

North Rhine-Westphalia will become the second US state to open its market to online casino operations, following the northernmost state of Schleswig-Holstein.

Introduced on 1 July 2021, the GlüNeuRStv framework has been adopted by all 16 of Germany’s federal states – although as of yet only the territories of North Rhine-Westphalia and Schleswig-Holstein have allowed online casino. 

One of the additional caveats of the treaty was the creation of the aforementioned new gambling regulator, which has been named as Gemeinsamen Glücksspielbehörde der Länder (GGL) – “The Joint Gambling Authority for German Federal States”.

Although not expected to launch until 1 January 2023, the GGL currently has an operational official website, and development of its functions and scope is being overseen by Annie Poggemann, a Bundestag representative for Saxony Anhalt.

It has also been confirmed that the regulator will be responsible for maintenance of all GlüNeuRStv regime databases monitoring player engagements and operator’s market activities, and will be led by Ronald Benter and Benjamin Schwanke as joint Chief Executives.

However, the implementation of the Fourth Interstate treaty has not been without its controversies, such as the imposition of a 5.3% on gross wagering tax on online casino, slots and poker.

Two trade bodies, the German online gambling trade association German Sports Betting Association (DSWV) and the European Gaming and Betting Association (EGBA), launched an EU-level appeal demanding that Lander reform the GlüNeuRStv tax framework last year. 

The organisations have asserted that the treaty has applied an anti-competitive tax rate on casino games and poker to maintain a competitive advantage for state-owned land-based casinos.

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