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Kevin Smith

Hessen Could Be Germany's Next I-Gaming State

15 May 2003

The German state of Hessen could be close to allowing play-for-pay gaming on the Internet.

In May 2002 the state of Hamburg's senate passed a bill enabling the regulation of online gaming. Taking their lead from Hamburg's policy (Hamburg's gambling policies are typically role models for other German states), regulators in Hessen shortly thereafter gave Spielbank Wiesbaden (located in the Hessen capital of Wiesbaden) the green light to launch a play-for-fun roulette Web site.

The site, launched in April 2003, has been a success, says Tim von Toerne of e-dict GmbH & Co. KG, Spielbank Wiesbaden's technology partner.

In October 2002, Spielbank Hamburg launched Germany's first regulated, real-money online casino, which features live roulette via multiple video feeds. That site was also created through a partnership with e-dict.

von Toerne said there's a chance Hessen regulators could implement further regulations that would create the foundation for play-for-real sites. He pointed out, though, that it took nearly five years for regulators to create the necessary guidelines for real-money I-gaming in Hamburg.

German regulators don't necessarily favor the expansion of gaming, but von Toerne says there's a sentiment that prohibition is a hopeless cause.

Officials with the Hessen Ministry of the Interior and Sports were unavailable for comment.

Meanwhile, regulators from other German states could be using Hessen as the proving ground for the industry to decide whether their state should opt for a regulatory approach. The gambling officers of most of the German states have formed a working group to investigate the possibilities regarding Internet gambling.

But according to von Toerne, it could be a while before any new I-gaming policies emerge.

"It appears that (the working) group is still far from reaching final results, so I consider no mid-term actions undertaken," he said.

Adding to the uncertainty is that no representative from Hamburg sits on the working group.

von Toerne said much of the attention within the working group is centered on how the states will approach the issue individually. He added that there has been no desire on the part of the federal government to harmonize online gambling policy. Federal officials aren't expected to come forward with a position on I-gaming.

Like most European countries, Germany leaves gambling policy in the hands of local governments. To date, von Toerne said, European competition laws have been inapplicable to the industry, so special local laws have been created to address it.

That could all change in a relatively short amount of time, but until then German officials in Hessen hope to move forward and make the state a leader in I-gaming.

At this point, regulators haven't considered online gaming licenses for any other land-based operators.

Hessen Could Be Germany's Next I-Gaming State is republished from
Kevin Smith
Kevin Smith