The German city-state of Bremen has ordered the closure of betting shops throughout the area, citing money-laundering concerts, prompting industry backlash.
According to The Guardian, 32 high-street bookies had their applications for licences under the Fourth Interstate Gambling Treaty (GlüNeuRStv) rejected by city authorities, meaning any bets taken after were illegal.
City officials have also cited concerns relating to money laundering, expressing their view that many criminals are using legal betting shops as a means of cleaning income made from drug dealing and other offences.
Bremen Senator for Internal Affairs, Ulrich Mäurer was quoted by The Guardian as speaking to German newspaper Weser-Kurier about the licence rejections.
“At its core, this is about checking the reliability of these operators,” the Senator explained. “We also want to guarantee that no money from dodgy businesses like drug dealing or human trafficking is being laundered here and thus flows into legal money cycles.”
Betting shops had been requested to provide written evidence of how they had secured startup funds, but many failed to do so in the following months, whilst another prospective licensee was rejected due to their shop being too close to a school.
The German Sports Betting Association (DSMV), has harshly criticised the city-state’s rejection of licences, decrying the move as a ‘politically motivated action’.
Defending regional operators, the association has accused local authorities of attacking the betting industry to distract from ‘urgent domestic political problems’ in the state.
“The members of the German Sports Betting Association have nationwide permits as organisers of sports betting,” said DSMV President Mathias Dahms.
“The reliability of the providers was put through their paces and, of course, the legal origin of their equipment was also proven.”
The DSMV asserts that ‘extensive, meaningful documents’ were provided to Bremen interior authorities relating to operators’ financial resources, and that evidence has been confirmed by ‘money laundering experts’.
“A clean, rule-of-law approach looks different,” Dahms continued. “The fact that, after months without any response from the authorities, all 32 applications for permits were suddenly rejected on the same day suggests that this is an arbitrary, legally questionable and completely disproportionate act that only serves to achieve political goals. This has nothing to do with proper administrative procedures.
“By wanting to close all betting shops, Senator Mäurer is undermining the 2021 State Treaty on Gaming, which the Bremen Senate and the Bremen Parliament have approved.
“The point is to create transparency and consumer protection through a controlled, legal market with verified providers. Mäurer is doing the issue a disservice and thus massively strengthening the black market. The providers operating illegally in Bremen will rejoice today.”
This is not the first time this year that the DSWV has been at odds with German legislators on gambling issues. The group has repeatedly emphasised black market threats to regulated German gaming, stating that the GlüNeuRStv regime is ill-prepared to combat this.
On the other hand, the trade body has welcomed the launch of Germany’s new gambling regulator, the Glücksspielbehörde der Länder (GGL), but has added that the authority should take quick action against the black market.