Germany & online gambling : The flood of law suits against providers of sports bets was thrown out on Thursday by the Bundesgerichtshof (BGH)

This was the original title (and much better ) of the German Federal Court of Justice, after the I. Zivilsenat (first division for civil matters) at the Bundesgerichtshof (German Federal Court of Justice) dismissed in four cases action filed by state-run gambling providers (among others Westlotto) against private sports betting providers holding GDR and EU licences (among others bwin).

The press release says :

“(…) the previous instances had held that the prohibition of illegal gambling, enforced by penalties, does not violate European Community law nor German Constitutional Law. (…) The Bundesgerichtshof has not assented to this evaluation. The landmark decision by the Bundesverfassungsgericht (Federal Constitutional Court) dated 28 March 2006 (1 BvR 1054/01) is said to mean that the state betting monopoly in Germany, in the legal and actual form it had taken during the decisive period of time before 28 March 2006, represented a disproportionate interference with the freedom of profession of persons interested in professional activities of this kind, this therefore being inconsistent with Art. 12 paragraph 1 GG (Grundgesetz – German Constitution). At the same time, it represented an unjustified restriction of the freedom of establishment and the free movement of services guaranteed under Art. 43 and 49 EC. Due to the state betting monopoly’s inconsistency with the Constitution and with Community law during the period of time before the judgment of the Bundesverfassungsgericht on 28 March 2006, Section 284 StGB (Strafgesetzbuch – German Criminal Code) could not be applied to the offering of sports bets in the cases to be decided here, where acts carried out in the years 2003 to 2005 are to be considered (so-called “old cases”).”

Gaminglaw.eu comes with more details and explains :

This means that, while the BGH in the “Schöner Wetten” decision in 2004 expressly demanded a German betting licence in order to exclude the applicability of Section 284 StGB, it now abandons this principle and turns to Community law.

Thus, if the new state treaty on gambling also violated Community law, an EU licence would be sufficient to exclude the applicability of Section 284 StGB, and thus a violation of competition.Â