Germany legalized poker earlier this month.
While at first this sounds like a good thing for the poker community, in practice legalization is proving a double-edged sword. A properly regulated market means greater protection from the law, but it also means greater restrictions.
Players’ major worries center on deposit limits. Under the Glücksspielneuregulierungsstaatsvertrag (State Treaty on Gambling in Germany) players would be limited to deposits of €1,000 per month. Anyone playing professionally at anything higher than the micros will have their bankroll locked down. Moving funds from website to site takes on a logistical timescale from the age of sail.
Additionally, losing players will be less liquid. Game size and profitability will shrink correspondingly.
Compared to this, the other poker-related regulations are small potatoes.
Players cannot play more than four tables at once for example. And the software will assign players to their seats automatically. No more picking the spot to the left of the whale.
As irksome as deposit limits for freedom-loving players are the increases in surveillance. Software designed to ID “problem gamblers” will be mandatory on all regulated sites. So too the increased rigor of poker sites due-diligence checks: the TLA trinity of KYC, AML, and CFT.
It is still not clear if providers will self-segregate to meet the market demands or if the .de pools will be able to play against other players in the way .co.uk poker sites can.
Now we are seeing the effects of the legislation at the other end of the stick. The service providers who have to comply with the law are showing the strain.
The announcement came in early-October with a deadline for compliance of October 15, 2020.
This gave juggernauts like PokerStars very little time to adjust their tillers. The result has been a large scale exodus from the German market. Players with German IPs or those registered to physical addresses in the Bundesrepublik have found themselves being politely asked to cash out and push off. Some of them temporarily, others indefinitely.
Betfair, Ladbrokes, and RedBet have hit the bricks entirely. They ceased operations in Germany and haven’t said a word on whether they have any intention of coming back.
Others, like PokerStars and Run It Once Poker, have been a bit less drastic. They’ve pulled out of the market but have both expressed their plans to apply for a .de license in the next few months.
888poker hasn’t made any move to pull out. But it is beavering away at building a new client. The new client will work with the new restrictions. GGPoker has also stayed in Germany but it will be tweaking its current client to make it work with German IPs.
Overall though, sites are steeling themselves to take a hit on this.
Germany is the fourth-biggest economy in the world — two of the three bigger economies (Japan and China) have outlawed online poker completely. A massive cut to the size of the German market is gonna have an impact on these companies’ profits whether they stay or go.