Illegal gambling – Need for research and action

Published in German in Zeitschrift für Wett- und Glücksspielrecht (ZfWG, European Journal of Gambling Law) 2015, p. 106. The essay covers the term illegal gambling, the differentiation from other groups of cases, the extent and nature of illegal gambling and the fight against illegal gambling.

Gambling law has been a specialized field of business law – but since the sports betting judgment of the Federal Constitutional Court of 28 March 2006 also subject of articles and comments in the general media. The current debate is characterized by obvious mass phenomena, such as café-casinos, betting shops and gambling halls, which can be found in the overall appearance of many cities, but also by the countless Internet-casinos and online lotteries whose advertising an active Internet user can hardly escape. In contributions to the discussion, two catchwords continually play a role: gambler protection and illegal gambling.
Illegal gambling ought to be combatted – also but not only – for reasons of consumer protection, and the game demand canalized towards legal and controlled gaming. The canalization is an explicit regulatory objective according to § 1 sentence 1 no. 2 State Treaty on Gambling and as such predominantly accepted. However, there is still a dispute about the best way to canalization. In the discussion on this, it becomes apparent that a definition and detailed information on the nature and extent of illegal gambling have been lacking so far. The essay at hand gives hints on moving closer to a evidence-based recognition of the phenomenon "illegal gambling".


  1. From a legal perspective, the term illegal gambling is viewed as sufficiently clarified; the illegal gambling corresponds to the illicit gambling, for which no permission of the competent authority may be submitted.
  2. The term gray market can be considered as sufficiently clarified. To this end, the EU Commission has taken account of situations in which the gambling operator established abroad does not have, although there, but in the target country of its bidding activities an appropriate permission.
  3. The above (No. 2) mentioned groups of cases should make up a large part of the number of cases in the police crime statistics (PKS) for violating §§ 284, 285 and 287 of the Criminal Code.
  4. The above (No. 2) mentioned groups of cases are in any case not be considered as illegal gambling, if the national law precludes granting of a permit in contravention of EU law.
  5. The extent of illegal gambling is not yet sufficiently researched. It lacks comprehensible and reliable data on the extent of the black internet casino market. The findings of studies by independent organizations must be published.
  6. There are no work available, in which the correlation between extent of illegal gambling (products, distribution, sales) and channeling effect is demonstrated resilient. Conversely, a context of lawful games of chance and channeling has not yet been adequately studied.
  7. Given the scale and multi-year growth of the black market for gambling, a serious lack of enforcement of the gambling law is to realize. The reasons are wrong decisions in the normalization of gambling law and in the organization and implementation of administrative enforcement. Overall, the legitimacy of the existing standardization of gambling is seriously called into question, because the GST has proven to be ineffective in legitimacy relevant parts.

Martin Reeckmann, retired senior government official, worked for the state of Berlin from 1989 to 2002 and was, in this capacity, head of the gambling division. Since 2003, he practices law as a founding partner of the law firm Reeckmann in Berlin, specializing in gambling law. Since April 2009, he represents the interests of German casinos, first as CEO, since 2010 as executive chairman of the Federal Association of Private Casinos in Germany (Bundesverband privater Spielbanken in Deutschland e.V. – BupriS).