European Court of Justice backs German private sports betting market

February 16, 2016 Leave a comment
On 4 February 2016, the European Court of Justice decided that the German monopoly on sports bets infringes European Law and that thus prosecution authorities may not prosecute brokers of sports bets as long as they are relying on EU-licensed providers (European Court of Justice, case C‑336/14).

The court decision was triggered by a referral procedure initiated by the German local court of Sonthofen, which had to deal with a criminal proceeding concerning a sports bets broker who was acting without a German license. The local court presented the case to the European Court of Justice. With the current decision, the European Court of Justice now goes beyond what some German courts have decided so far in comparable cases.

According to some German courts, the brokerage of sports bets was possible even to providers that were not holding a German license (which currently cannot be obtained anyway, as the license procedure had been stopped by court), however, only if the offer complies with the strict boundaries of the German legal framework on sports bets.

Now, the European Court of Justice did hold that it is sufficient if the provider relies on an EU license. Even though the court does not explicitly mention the consequences, there are good arguments that it is not necessary to fulfil all strict requirements of the currently existing German legal framework for sports bets, but that it is rather sufficient to comply with the foreign requirements of respective EU licenses which are less strict than the German regulations.

Experts expect that the EU commission will now initiate the infringement procedure against Germany which has already been prepared.

Some German politicians are now considering another attempt to open up the sports betting market for private providers. In the past, it had been planned to grant the limited number of 20 licenses. However, due to foreseeable legal actions of providers that were not among those 20 chosen for such a license, the proceeding had been stopped by court. As a result, currently none of the German providers active on the German market holds a German license.

It remains to be seen how German courts will react on this decision. But regardless of the perception by national German courts, this verdict strengthens the position of private sports bets providers.

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Dr. Hendrik Schöttle

Dr. Hendrik Schöttle

Partner at Osborne Clarke
Hendrik advises in the fields of IT law and data protection law as well as entertainment law. Hendrik has many years of experience with consulting, drafting and negotiating of complex IT projects.

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