Germans love to gamble, and they have taken to the Internet’s poker rooms, sportsbooks, and online casinos with fervor and energy unmatched by any country that is not bordered by Poland, Belgium, Austria, and Switzerland (yes, we cheated and looked at a map).
So it should come as no surprise that German online gambling venues run the gamut from lotteries to sportsbooks to poker rooms and on to casinos themselves.
Are There Online Casinos In Germany?
There are, in fact, online casinos that operate within the borders of Germany. There are even German online casinos that operate FROM within the borders of Germany. Why the odd distinction?
Back in 2008, an interstate gambling treaty which made online gambling illegal in Germany was signed into law. All 16 Bundesländer (German states) were signatories to the treaty, except for one—Schleswig-Holstein.
Not only did Schleswig-Holstein refuse to sign the ban, but by 2012—and in accordance with its own Schleswig-Holstein Gaming Act—began issuing licenses to online casinos wishing to operate from within its boundaries. An even dozen so wished.
One side note: While Schleswig-Holstein’s licensed online casinos were already putting their sites online and accepting wagers, the 20 or so sports betting licenses issued by under the aegis of the 2012 Interstate Treaty were hanging fire, held up in court by challengers to Germany’s licensing process.
Back to Schleswig-Holstein. The first handful of licensees began operations in 2013, a year in which, interestingly enough, the state government underwent a dramatic change in administrations. Among the new administration’s first act was repealing the state’s Gaming Act and sign on to a new interstate treaty that banned online casinos.
When the dust settled on this new arrangement, the only thing remaining of the outgoing administration’s openness to online casinos was the incoming administration’s retention of the right to permit the existing Schleswig-Holstein licensees to operate until the expiration of their six-year licenses, after which the new interstate treaty would be in full effect, allowing only for online sports betting and prohibiting all other forms of online gambling.
In 2016, the state administration of Schleswig-Holstein changed again. Sure enough, it immediately announced it was willing to consider a return to the state’s online casino-welcoming Gambling Act.
See You in Court
Meanwhile—four years after the passage of the original interstate treaty on gambling—Germany had yet to allow a single sports betting licensee to actually exercise that license. In fact, 2016 saw Germany soundly spanked in EU courts for its interstate treaty’s nightmare of sports betting licensing regulations, the law’s “lack of transparency,” and its violation of the EU’s free trade provisions.
In the EU court’s opinion, Germany had used one portion of its treaty to make it illegal to conduct a sports betting operation without a license, while another portion of the treaty made it impossible to obtain such a license.
By the way, if you’re starting to wonder how a nation who can engineer such fine automobiles can also be responsible for such poorly-constructed laws, remember that few German engineers run for public office.
Rather than take the EU court decision under advisement and consider this whole internet gambling thing a bit more thoroughly (and certainly with an eye toward avoiding contradictory clauses), Germany immediately set about preparing a new and improved interstate gambling treaty that would surely suit all of its constituent states as well as the European Union.
It’s Always Going to Be Something with Schleswig-Holstein, Isn’t It
In 2017—still, with no sports betting licenses in force—the 16 German states gave approval to such a treaty. It needed only ratification from the legislatures of all 16 states to go into effect.
And again, the legislature of Schleswig-Holstein (you’ll recall they had just recently returned to liking online casinos) declined to sign the new treaty. This effectively stopped the new treaty in its tracks, and so the 2012 interstate gambling treaty that banned online casinos would continue as the law of the land.
Except in Schleswig-Holstein, that is. It was going to return to a version of its own Gambling Act, this time forming a coalition with the states of North Rhine-Westphalia, Rhineland-Palatinate, and Hesse—all with the aim of instituting a version of gambling law “oriented to the regulations of the Schleswig-Holstein gambling law valid prior to 2013” (our translation, with a little help from Google).
To summarize, by 2018 we had the various German states fighting amongst themselves, the German federal government fighting with a number of its own constituent states, and the courts of the European Union standing by to stomp on any real or perceived improprieties in any new German laws.
Oh, and by the way: Remember those six-year licenses issued by Schleswig-Holstein? They began expiring in late 2018. And 2019 was barely getting its pants on before the remaining licenses expired. No more online casinos for Germany. The end.
Or is it?
Bear in mind that while some of the online casino licenses issued by Schleswig-Holstein were in fact based in Germany, many others were already in operation in other parts of the EU and/or the world, and merely wanted to ensure the legal right to do business with German gamblers.
So, while the original licensees based in Germany appear to have shut down their websites, we found at least one (the aptly-named OnlineCasino Deutschland) that continues to operate. However, it notes that “only Residents of Schleswig-Holstein are allowed to play for real money.” This would seem to suggest that Schleswig-Holstein is serious about proceeding with its plans to continue licensing online casinos.
In any case, if the past is prologue, we can expect the changes in Germany’s approach to online gambling to continue for decades to come. Whether they’ll be welcome changes or not, well, that’s the gamble, isn’t it?
Can I Gamble Online in Germany or not? It’s a Simple Question, Pal
While Germany and its various constituent states have pretty much painted online casinos operating within the country into a corner, there are a multitude of Germany-facing online casinos that also operate in other countries, and they are all too happy to take up the slack.
And Germany, as well as its states, have been more concerned with restricting the activities of German operators. Placing wagers with online casinos does not seem to be particularly frowned-upon, but neither is it protected, so a German gambles at an online casino at his own risk.
On the plus side, there are many online casinos accepting deposits and pay out withdrawals in Euros (if you have any Deutschmarks lying around, you’ll need to exchange those fast—they went obsolete in 2002). They also publish their terms and conditions in German and include graphics welcoming German-speaking visitors—okay, we’ll just say it: These are Germany-facing online casinos.
Until Germany comes to its senses, these are the closest thing to German online casinos a German is going to find.
Most prevalent among these German online casinos are those based in other nations that are also members of the European Union. And why not? The EU insists on no trade restrictions between its constituent nations, and Germany is a wealthy nation (who did you think bailed Greece out of debt all those times?). The circumstances seem ripe with opportunity.
Speaking of tax revenue, if it weren’t for the fact that Germany remains the top contributor to the EU budget (nearly 20% in 2016, for example), the EU would probably be less forgiving about the way Germany has treated online casinos, which elsewhere are considered reputable and solid tax-paying businesses.
Be that as it may, to put it simply, Germans gamble at online casinos every day.
As we pointed out earlier, if you choose to gamble online in Germany, you won’t be depositing Deutsche Marks (why do you even have those? Did you find them in a shoebox up in the attic?). But otherwise, you can expect the same sort of experience you’d find at any other online casinos—a multitude of slots, plenty of table games, video poker, and the latest addition to online gambling’s glittering array of attractions, live dealer action.
Many of the online casinos serving Germany are licensed in the UK, which means they are already heavily regulated and controlled. Most will have numerous certifications from industry watchdogs such as eCOGRA, iTech Labs, and Gaming Laboratories International (GLI).
With industry giants like Microgaming, Betsoft, Playtech, and NetEnt in the game, you would expect there to be plenty of slots to play at German online casinos. And you would be correct: The average German online casino offers hundreds of slots, 3D slots, animated slots, and slots based on your favorite TV shows or movies. No doubt they’ve got a slot with your name on it. Literally.
And if you look hard enough, you might even find Germany-specific slots like Deutschland Jackpot.
Germans love poker like Berliners love, um, Berliners. When poker rooms opened up on the Internet, Germans were right there, waiting patiently in line to ante up. And video poker is no exception: You can find standard video poker (jacks or better), deuces wild, five-hand poker, three-hand poker, bonus poker, and more at German online casinos.
You’ll find an embarrassment of riches in the variations of blackjack offered by German online casinos. Games like blackjack surrender, blackjack switch, zero blackjack, pontoon, and even blackjack’s distant cousin, Stravaganza, can be found among the games available.
Roulette, double roulette, three-wheel roulette, sic bo, baccarat, hi-lo, three card poker, fortune pai gow —it might be easier to list the table games you can’t find at German online casinos. Suffice it to say that if it involves gambling and can be played on a table, you’ll find it here.
A newer addition to the online gaming world, live dealer tables at German online casinos now offer blackjack, roulette, French roulette, Deutsches roulette, baccarat, casino hold’em, wheel (or dreamcatcher, depending on the casino and the software provider), and a variety of other games (we left off about half a dozen other versions of roulette available at the live dealer tables offered by German online casinos).
By the way, depending on the casino, you may even find live dealer 21+3 (a variation of blackjack that adds the option to make the best three-card poker hand from your first two cards and the dealer’s up card).
Another recent addition to the online gambling repertoire, designing games that can be reframed on the small screens of smartphones is already becoming a fine art. Many of your favorite slots at German online casinos will also be available to you on your phone, and the same goes for video poker, table games in general, and—surprise!—live dealer games as well.
One note: You’ll usually need to download software to enable your phone to stream the various games.
We don’t usually include information on sports betting in these surveys of online casinos, but in the case of German online casinos, it’s almost imperative to do so. Most of the online casinos licensed back in 2012 by Schleswig-Holstein also offered sports betting sites, and the line of demarcation between casinos and sportsbooks among the nations of the EU is rather vague. In fact, in many cases it’s nonexistent.
Don’t be surprised that when you visit a German online casino, you’ll also find opportunities to bet on horse races, dog races, football, rugby, basketball, and virtually any other activity where there are winners and losers. In some cases, it’s even possible to place a bet on the outcome of a Call of Duty or Warcraft match. Seriously.
In addition to the usual modes of deposit and withdrawal methods offered by most online casinos, the options presented by many German online casinos include Sofort (a German online payment service provider firm now operating as part of the Swedish firm Klarna).
- Sofort (now Klarna)
- Bank wire transfer
- Bank wire transfer
Note that some withdrawal options can take up to five working days to complete (Bank wire transfers and Visa, for example). Others tend to be in the 24-hour to 48-hour range.
Most online casinos understand that they are in a very competitive market, and consequently, offer generous bonuses to encourage you to gamble with them, and to continue gambling with them, as well. Welcome bonuses (also called sign-up bonuses) offer to match your first deposit 100% (or in some cases, as much as 200%) and some will even throw in free spins on their various slot machines as an added incentive to join their gambling membership.
Additionally, German online casinos award a reload bonus for those times you need to replenish your gaming bankroll. These can also mean up to a 100% match of your deposit.
Many online casinos accepting German players also send exclusive offers and bonuses to their membership regularly via email, so once you’ve decided to sign-up, make sure you register to receive emails from that casino.
Always bear in mind that in the case of all bonuses, a certain amount of playthrough (or rollover) is required before you can access part or all of the bonus. Generally speaking, German online casinos require a 30x deposit + bonus playthrough. For example, if you deposit 100 Euros and get a 100% bonus, you must wager a total of 6,000 euros to gain full access to your bonus.
Tip #1: Do your research. Always check an online casino for licenses, certifications, and available banking options before you sign up and make that first deposit. Luckily, most German online casinos also serve other nations in the European Union, and should all have the appropriate documentation.
Tip #2: German online gambling is in a constant state of flux. Despite the German concentration on laws affecting online casino operators, they’ve expended very little effort in developing laws that govern the gamblers themselves. Still, it is a good idea to confine your banking to online repositories and to use any and all legal options to connect privately to any online casinos.
Virtual Private Networks (VPN), for example, can provide an anonymous link to the Internet, while e-wallets such as Neteller and Skrill (not to mention Bitcoin itself) afford banking options less open to scrutiny by various outside organizations.
Tip #3: Avoid the tuition costs of learning a new game. If you have never played a hand of sic bo, it’s probably not a good idea to sit down at a live dealer sic bo table and start betting real money. Instead, take advantage of the many “play money” options offered by online casinos.
One caveat: Live dealer tables generally don’t offer a “play money” option, but they do usually allow play-behind, which in this case means you can go to a live dealer sic bo table and watch the play take place, and at least gain some understanding of the game.
Tip #4: Play defensively. This means you should always have a limit for play during any particular session. Betting the farm sounds exciting and carefree in the movies, but it inevitably leads to financial sorrow in the real world.
As They Say in Berlin: Auf Wiedersehen
By now, we’re sure you’re chomping at the bit to start exploring the various German online casinos and narrowing down your choices. Well, who are we to stop you? And look: We even provided a list of the top German online casinos for you wayyy back at the beginning of this article. That might be a great—not to mention convenient—place to get started.
Oh, and Viel Glück!