Is online gambling legal in Germany?

Online casinos make every year in total billions in sales. Players from Germany also contribute a part to this. And their number has been growing continuously for years. How large the number of regular “casino visitors” on the Internet is, unfortunately, no official statistics exist. Probably a part of the players would not put their cards on the table, because online casinos are almost exclusively operated from abroad. The fact that players in Germany can still use the offers is due to the Internet. After all, there are no borders here where certain offers simply stop.

What many casino fans, who occasionally spin a few rounds of roulette or slots, do not know: Online Gambling in Deutschland (Germany) is actually illegal. The State Treaty on Gambling does provide for the granting of licenses for the sports betting segment. However, online casinos are not covered by this step towards legalization. The problem: The State Treaty on Gambling in its current form is repeatedly met with scepticism and criticism. The latter goes so far that the domestic courts partly deny the constitutionality of the regulations.

This question, if online gambling is legal, due to the current State Treaty on Gambling and the corresponding paragraphs in the Criminal Code, is quickly answered with a yes. However, the situation is not quite that simple.

Basically, § 4 of the State Treaty on Gambling in Germany prohibits the organization of online gambling. This would mean that organizers would immediately have one foot in prison. And even those who participate in such an event as players must – according to the interpretation of the German Penal Code – expect a penalty.

But, in practice, the situation is much more complex. One factor of uncertainty is the State Treaty on Gambling itself. In recent years, the EU or the ECJ has already criticized the treaty of the Länder and rejected it. What bothers critics is the maintenance of the state gambling monopoly. Moreover, in the eyes of the sceptics, the Treaty violates the European freedom of services.

Even German courts, for example in Bavaria and Hesse, have denied the State Treaty on Gambling its constitutionality. The states are now working on a new solution. However, a clear legal situation of course looks different.

Point number 2 concerns the state of Schleswig-Holstein. The latter has not signed the State Treaty on Gambling, but has chosen a special path. As a result, various casino operators have even received a license. In this context, the Ministry of the Interior and Federal Affairs explicitly refers to online casino games.

In addition, lawyers interpret the applicable regulations differently. Example prohibition of participation in illegal gambling. The StGB makes gambling illegal if it lacks an official license. Since many online casinos, however, have a license from foreign authorities from EU countries, the licensing requirement would actually be fulfilled.

What makes a good online casino?

Over the years, the number of online casinos has grown very strongly. In some cases, identical operators are behind different brands – which makes the choice difficult. Beginners quickly lose track when searching for reliable casinos. Are there points at which the quality of virtual casinos can be evaluated?


Gambling offer: This criterion should be important if diversity is required. Some online casinos have specialized in recent years – for example, slots. Other providers have emerged from poker rooms and continue to maintain this tradition. Of course, the market also has real all-rounders to offer.

License: The topic of licenses has already been mentioned. Where players want to feel particularly well looked after, the license of an EU member is clearly in the foreground. It should be noted that the licensing is also associated with legitimation or anti-money laundering regulations, which the casinos insist on complying with.

Transparent terms and conditions: Online casinos have terms and conditions that every new customer must know. Among other things, this is about what happens in the event of illegal behavior – or under what conditions bonuses are granted.

Uncomplicated bonus conditions: Casinos draw attention to themselves through bonuses – for example for deposits. If you don’t want to be disappointed, simply take a look at the bonus conditions. Ideally, these should be simple and transparent. Especially the topic of turnover requirements (rollover), the activity period and the calculation factors of individual games are clearly in the foreground here.

Banking: This aspect is perceived too rarely. On the one hand, of course, it is about the possibilities for deposits. However, it is also interesting to know whether individual payment methods are free of charge when cashing out – or whether fees are being charged.

But what distinguishes legal and regulated Casinos then?

In order for a casino to be considered legal, its operation must be approved by a state authority. In Germany, the administration of gambling and sports betting in general is the responsibility of the federal states.

Other countries, other customs: online casinos abroad are often licensed centrally via gambling authorities – such as the MAG (Malta Gaming Authority). To obtain this license, the operator must comply with certain rules. These include, for example, taking measures to prevent addiction.

Licensed casinos usually include special information offers or allow the player to self-exclusion if he or she detects pathological gaming behavior. However, the conditions for licensing can go even further – and relate, for example, to the safekeeping of customer funds and the legitimization of new customers.

Long story short: The situation in Germany remains unclear

Online casinos are illegal in Germany at first glance. However, in recent years – since the new State Treaty on Gambling – one or two facts have changed. The jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice and various administrative courts in particular has increased uncertainty. In addition, at first glance, clear rules in the StGB appear to have become much less stringent. In the eyes of some legal scholars, the passage on official approval in particular appears to have become very elastic. In any case, the situation for casino fans has not really become any easier. It remains to be seen how the situation will change again with the next State Treaty on Gambling.