German state of Thuringia grants online casino monopoly to Ministry of Finance

Posted: March 21, 2022, 7:29 a.m.

Last update: March 21, 2022, 12:28 p.m.

The German Land of Thuringia has fulfilled its mission. He wanted to have a monopoly on his online casino operations, which has been official since last week.

Bodo Ramelow
Bodo Ramelow, Minister-President of Thuringia, Germany. His government has finalized new iGaming laws that will result in a monopoly in the state. (Picture: Bloomberg)

After Germany overhauled its outdated gambling laws last year, the country’s federated states have had the opportunity to explore robust online gambling markets. In some states, however, leaders have decided to head in the opposite direction.

Instead of opening their iGaming business to licensed operators, some monopolies are coming to Germany. Thuringia is the latest, after the state’s casino legislation was approved last week.

In future, the state will be able to organize online casino games and will have a monopoly in Thuringia. This is the heart of an amendment to the Thuringian Casino Act (ThürSpbkG), which the state parliament passed by a majority on March 17, 2022, in a third consultation.

Thuringia opts against a strong iGaming regime

Parliament thus implements the provisions of the State Treaty on Gambling 2021 (GlüStV 2021), which contains regulations on online casino games. He did not use the possible alternative under the GlüStV 2021, which allowed the allocation of gaming concessions. With this final vote in the state parliament, the ThürSpbkG becomes the “Casino and Online Casino Law of Thuringia” (ThürSpbkOCG).

The Thuringian Landtag, the state government, has already concluded the substantive debate on the amendment with the second consultation on November 18 last year. Subsequently, he announced his intention to promulgate the law to the European Commission. This notification complies with the procedure provided for by European Directive 2015/1535, which is a necessary step between the second and third consultation.

Thuringia has opted for the state monopoly, which is also practiced in other federal states. It argues that this will allow it to best implement the protection of minors and players and to ward off the risk of manipulation.

However, the opposite may be true. Monopolies have no reason to innovate or offer additional competitive measures to users. As a result, more and more users are turning to black market options. Markets that incorporate licensed operations offer greater controls and improved oversight, since regulators can monitor activity. This cannot be done when consumers use offshore sites.

The Ministry of Finance will organize iGaming operations

The Ministry of the Interior and Municipal Affairs of Thuringia, as the ministry currently responsible for the management of casinos, can grant permission to operate online casino games. The state finance department can apply because profits from gambling operations go to the state budget.

Legally, the state can mandate an institution or a company to operate online casino games. These entities may be legal entities under private or public law. However, it must be entirely in the hands of the country.

For example, the Thuringian State Lottery, a public institution under public law, is in question. But other solutions are also possible.

In any case, strict conditions are in place for the issuance of a permit and are detailed in the ThürSpbkOCG. In addition to the operation of the games, it is also a question of preventing or remedying gambling addiction and ensuring the protection of minors and players. To this end, the new ThürSpbkG includes restrictions on advertising, as well as the ability to ban players.

James R. Rhodes